The Importance Of Sleep

We’ve been told we need eight hours a night throughout the duration of our lives. You may have even heard the term, “Slept like a baby,” at one point or another. But why do people put such an emphasis on sleep, like it will cure anything that ails you? Mostly because it can cure most of what ails you.

When you sleep, your body goes into recovery mode, repairing broken down tissue, giving your brain the rest it needs to prepare itself for tomorrow, and essentially prepping you with the tools you’ll need for the day to come. However, sleep often comes at a high price these days. Increasing work demands often keep people awake at night due to stress, television shows that “must” be watched, books that must be read, and so on and so forth. You name it, and I’m sure that it’s a terrible reason not to have enough of this precious commodity.

Your sleep cycle consists of two “patterns”: Non-REM sleep and REM sleep (REM stands for Rapid Eye Movement, which occurs during the deepest of sleeps). Within those patterns are multiple stages, each that serve their own purpose.

Non-REM consists of four stages. Those four stages serve a bevy of importance of which are bulleted below.

Stage One:

Lightest sleep.

Mostly consisting of the “nodding off” sensation.

Stage Two:

Onset of sleep

Start to lose a sense of surrounding.

Stages Three/Four:

Deepest sleep, which means you’re doing most of your repair here.

Blood pressure drops and breathing becomes slower while muscle relaxation occurs.

Tissue growth and repair begins here.

Energy is restored back to normal levels.

Growth hormone is released in order to fully repair the body to it’s functional capabilities.

REM sleep’s duration lasts the final 25% of your nightly sleep, and occurs every 90 minutes or so. REM’s importance is detailed below:

Provides energy to the brain and body which allows performance during when you need it.

Dreams happen in this stage of sleep.

Body becomes relaxed.

All of this is well and fine, however, how do you know how much sleep you really need? Well, that all depends on many factors, such as: age, activity level, and many others. Below is a graph from the CDC which outlines the hours of sleep you should be receiving on a nightly basis given your age. I’ll preface this by saying, the older you get, the less sleep you’ll require. Although, you should take into consideration your activity level, as this chart does not do that. More activity, more sleep.

As you can see, adults require the least amount of sleep than any other age group. However, if you’re an athlete, you need at least the recommended 9 hours of quality sleep. Quality sleep being shades drawn (hopefully you have some of those fancy light blocking shades), a colder than room temperature room (this assists with the body temperature drop that occurs back in stage two), and a silent room of which to sleep. I, personally, like having some kind of “white noise” in the background, be it a fan, or even the sound of rain. Anything that helps you drone off seems to be of much assistance.

I also want to put an end to the sense that, if you’re in bed for 8 hours, you got 8 hours of sleep. That simply is not true. I have an application on my phone that determines how much sleep I get in three stages: Awake, Light Sleep, and Deep Sleep. The application responds to my body’s movements, and determines which stage I am in and at what time I enter it and end it. For example, last night I went to bed at 10 pm last night, spent 4 minutes falling asleep, and spent 11 minutes awake throughout the night. I was in bed for a total of 6 hours and 46 minutes, which gives me a grand total of 6 hours and 35 minutes of sleep. However, I spent 4% of my sleep being awake, 54% of it in a light sleep, and the remaining 42% of it in a deep sleep. When I woke up this morning, I was feeling pretty good, even though I didn’t get the recommended 7-9 hours.

Quality of sleep is something you need to consider when going to bed. Turn off your television. Turn off your radio. Shut the blinds. Do everything you can to sound-proof your room. For God’s sakes, man. You pick up heavy things and put them down, are bearded, and enjoy eating meat. You’re as close to a caveman as you’ll ever be, so start sleeping like one. Just don’t use a rock as a pillow, that’s not comfortable.

Article written by Jay Stadtfeld for


“How Much Sleep Do I Need?” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 09 May 2012. Web. 24 July 2012. <>.

“What Happens When You Sleep?” National Sleep Foundation. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 July 2012. <>.

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