Font Size
A
A
A
2
...

Sleep: Understanding the Basics (cont.)

Importance of Sleep

Animal studies have shown that sleep is necessary for survival. The normal life span of rats is 2 to 3 years. However, rats deprived of sleep live for only about 3 weeks. They also develop abnormally low body temperatures and sores on their tails and paws. The sores probably develop because of impairment of the rats' immune systems.

In humans, it has been demonstrated that the metabolic activity of the brain decreases significantly after 24 hours of sustained wakefulness. Sleep deprivation results in a decrease in body temperature, a decrease in immune system function as measured by white blood cell count (the soldiers of the body), and a decrease in the release of growth hormone. Sleep deprivation can also cause increased heart rate variability.

For our nervous systems to work properly, sleep is needed. Sleep deprivation makes a person drowsy and unable to concentrate the next day. It also leads to impairment of memory and physical performance and reduced ability to carry out mathematical calculations. If sleep deprivation continues, hallucinations and mood swings may develop.

Release of growth hormone in children and young adults takes place during deep sleep. Most cells of the body show increased production and reduced breakdown of proteins during deep sleep. Sleep helps humans maintain optimal emotional and social functioning while we are awake by giving rest during sleep to the parts of the brain that control emotions and social interactions.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 9/28/2012
Author:
Coauthor:

Must Read Articles Related to Sleep: Understanding the Basics

Bedwetting
Bedwetting Bedwetting (nocturnal enuresis) is the involuntary passage of urine while sleeping. Causes of bedwetting include urinary tract infection, diabetes, emotional pr...learn more >>
Disorders That Disrupt Sleep (Parasomnias)
Disorders That Disrupt Sleep (Parasomnias) Parasomnias are disruptive sleep-related disorders. They are characterized by undesirable physical or verbal behaviors or experiences. Parasomnias occur in asso...learn more >>
Insomnia
Insomnia Insomnia affects most people at some point in their lifetime. Insomnia is actually a symptoms of a condition, disease, or situation. Non-medical treatment of in...learn more >>

Patient Comments & Reviews

The eMedicineHealth doctors ask about Sleep: Understanding the Basics:

Sleep Problems - Symptoms

What were the symptoms of your sleep problems?

Sleep - Treatment

What helps you to get back to sleep?

Sleep - Problems Experienced

What sleep problems have you experienced?




Read What Your Physician is Reading on Medscape

Sleep Disorder: Problems Associated with Other Disorders »

Sleep disturbances in youth represent highly common phenomena that, in severe forms, can interfere with daily patient and family functioning.

Read More on Medscape Reference »


Medical Dictionary