Thursday, August 26, 2010

Why Do We Sleep?

Did you see the article in May's National Geographic, The Secrets of Sleep?

The most interesting thing about the article is that it explores the wonder that we don't really know why we're made that way, why we spend a third of our lives asleep:
"'If sleep doesn't serve an absolutely vital function,' the renowned sleep researcher Allan Rechtschaffen once said, 'it is the greatest mistake evolution ever made.'"
After all, sleep leaves a creature extremely vulnerable, e.g., to predators.
"At Stanford University I visited William Dement, the retired dean of sleep studies, a co-discoverer of REM sleep, and co-founder of the Stanford Sleep Medicine Center. I asked him to tell me what he knew, after 50 years of research, about the reason we sleep. 'As far as I know,' he answered, 'the only reason we need to sleep that is really, really solid is because we get sleepy.'"

We may never have a tidy scientific explanation of these things, or be able to "overcome" this terrible, wonderful vulnerability, this need for downtime. I say, instead, let's not try. Instead, let's celebrate it; let's enjoy it.

Or, of course, ignore it at your peril. I'm still pondering Mark Buchanan's The Rest of God. I blogged about his description of "Those Who Will Not Stop."

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