Why Do We Sleep?

It’s pitch dark, I’m not even conscious, and then, from a distance, I hear the sound of my phone alarm. I slowly open my eyes and I realize I was asleep, it’s morning already, and I have to wake up. I reach for my phone, stop the alarm, and then unplug the device. Like me, during the night it was re-charging.

My day then unfolds as usual, and I’m obviously not following through with my routine, it would be boring. I wrote this intro specifically to place you, the reader, in a familiar space related to the topic.

I know you spend, on average, about 8 hours of sleep per day. If you stop and think for a while, we spend a third of our lives recharging. On a 70 years average lifespan, that amounts to 23 years, give or take.

23 years of your life aren’t really spent living, just recharging.

Surprisingly, we don’t really know why is this happening. There isn’t yet a massive consensus around the reason behind this state of life. It’s not only human that sleep, by the way, all mammals and birds do, as far as I know, and there is still a debate on whether or not fish are sleeping in the same way as the other living beings.

Some say we sleep because the brain needs to make sense of all the information it has acquired during the day. Some say it’s some sort of necessary recovery, like a mini-holiday. But why do we need such a holiday? Why can’t we just go on, continuously?

I can accept that we don’t know that, yet. We still don’t know many things. And we certainly don’t know what we don’t know, which is the biggest liability of all.

But even accepting that we don’t know why do we sleep still leaves a big misunderstanding on the table: why are we then measuring life including sleep? Since we’re not really doing something during that part of our existence? Why can’t we just think of it like we measure our devices, in hours of functioning. Because our phones, computers and watches are not measured in hours of functioning + hours of recharging.

It’s one thing to know that you will live 70 years, and it’s a completely different one to know that you’ll actually live just 47 – the rest you will be asleep.

Now go back and ponder this again: 23 years of your life aren’t really spent living, just recharging.

Make the remaining count.

Image by Carabo Spain from Pixabay

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