Sleep Deprivation

On average, human being spends a third of their lives sleeping, but why do we sleep in the first place? In an attempt to understand why we sleep, numerous studies have been conducted. Nearly all of the studies have affirmed the importance good sleep to health and overall wellbeing. In fact, the importance of sleep is comparable to that of food intake. Studies have shown that on average, human beings would pass on more quickly from deprivation of sleep than that of food. After all, a person can last for about two weeks if given water, but without food, while he or she can only last for a maximum of ten days with sleep deprivation. The justification of this paper is to provide a persuasive discussion that will demonstrate the importance of sleep and how sleep deprivation affects the normal functioning of our minds.

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Philosophers have conducted studies aimed at understanding sleep for a long time, but the reason as to why sleep exists has been highly contested. Various theories have been developed over the years, but none of them is well established. While some of the theories attempting to explain the importance of sleep and the detrimental effect of sleep deprivation appear to be mutually exclusive, others are not compatible. Two main approaches have been developed by philosophers to explain sleep. In fact, sleep restoration theories hold that sleep occurs in order to restore and repair the worn out body tissues. On the other hand, evolutionary theories suggest that sleep is important as it helps human beings to survive in their hostile environments.

Philosopher Oswald attempted to explain the importance of sleep by developing the theory of restoration. He argued that the main function of sleep is to restore and repair the body during periods of inactivity, which helps in ensuring adequate biological functionality of the body (Hill & Hill, 2001). This is a theory that has been supported by numerous studies of sleep deprivation because there have been clear evidence that the biological functioning of the human body deteriorates if they are deprived of sleep (Ellenbogen et al, 2006; Pilcher & Huffcutt, 1996). Studies on sleep patterns throughout a person’s lifespan, the relationships between sleep patterns and illnesses, as well as how people sleep after brain injuries have supported Oswald’s idea of restoration (Siegel, 2005).

Hibernation theory is one of the evolutionary theories developed by philosopher Webb. It suggests that the reason as to why sleep evolved is that it allows people and other organisms to have greater chances of subsistence in their highly hostile environments. The main problem with this theory is that it does not offer the factors that could potentially affect sleep patterns or cause sleep deprivation. In addition, the theory fails to explain why sleep is universal because there is evidence of some animals that sleep for only one and a half hours in a day such as the giraffe (Killgore, 2010). Similarly, this theory does not explain the importance of sleep and why it would be fatal for one to be deprived of sleep.

In essence, sleep plays a fundamental role in the overall health and one should go without it. It increases performance and alertness as well as memory formation and cognition. Restoration and evolutionary theories attempt to explain sleep and have their advantages. However, the evidence does not seem to prop-up the evolutionary approach because it does not have an impact on the patterns of sleep for both human beings and animals.

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