September 09, 2022 3 min read
For most of your childhood and early adult life this question would probably have generated a response along the lines of, “we sleep to rest.” We say this because we observed the pattern of feeling really tired and cranky when we went to sleep, and then waking up ready to play, explore, and work towards goals. As one’s sleep quality and quantity decline with age, that answer may begin to look quite different.
However, as with most of life, our intuition isn’t too far off. A good night’s sleep does leave us with the distinct experience of feeling more rested. But what do we mean by rested? Aren’t you rested if you lay on your couch all day eating and watching TV? Maybe, yet you still need to sleep that night.
Here’s my simple answer; the purpose of sleep is to repair from today, and prepare for tomorrow. While we are awake, we are using up our fuel faster than we can make it. Therefore, we eventually get worn out, exhausted, tired . . . and declare, “I need to sleep.” Unfortunately for western modern societies, all of that repair and preparation takes about 8 hours. That number isn’t optional anymore than the number of calories you need to sustain your current weight is, how many grams of protein you need, or hundreds of other biological requirements. But for some reason we think that we can somehow get away with sleeping less and still feel and perform our best. I’m not sure why we think this as a society, but a lot of evidence suggests that we do.
Allow me to illustrate how flawed that thinking actually is. Since we are depleting resources while we are awake, and we are replenishing resources while we sleep, if we could get the balance just right, we would wake up every day looking and feeling exactly like we did the previous day. In other words: we wouldn’t age. Of course, we can’t “get the balance just right,” so this isn’t an option. When we are children we can sleep 10-12 hours and wake up the next day stronger, smarter and bigger than the day before. But after a certain age, we can’t quite repair 100% each night, so we wake up a little diminished the next day. It may only be one-thousandth of a percent diminished, but that is aging.
The unfortunate reality for us is that the cosmos keeps traveling, the earth keeps spinning, and tomorrow always comes—whether we sleep 8 hours or 8 minutes. The sun comes up at the same time, and our responsibilities and obligations show up with it. If you haven’t replenished your nutrients and repaired your tissues, too bad. Today is just going to be a lot harder than it needed to be. Your body will try to compensate by releasing a chemical called cortisol, which may help in the short term, but eventually, it will catch up to you. But more on that in another email.
For now, I hope you’ll consider these simplistic ideas the next time you try to convince yourself that sleeping 8 hours isn’t necessary. You can find a lot more information on my site about how to sleep better. One of the obvious components is nutrition, and I have developed a nutritional supplement specifically meant to replenish the most common nutritional deficits that interfere with sleep.
If you want to have an amazing life, you must have amazing sleep. Otherwise, you are leaving a lot of money on the table.
Sleep well my friends.