One of the things that I am working on right now is trying to adjust my sleep schedule for grad school. I am going to be going to school all day on Mondays and Tuesdays which wouldn’t be an issue requiring sleep adjustment on it’s own. However, I am also going to work full time at VoA’s Children’s Residential Treatment Center which requires working rotating shifts. I may work from 7AM-5PM or 1PM-11PM depending on the day. In order to accommodate that work schedule and time to do my homework, I am setting up a sleep schedule for myself where I go to sleep around 11PM and wake around 6AM. Seven hours of sleep is not an unreasonable amount of sleep. However, I love sleeping. Sometimes if I am feeling particularly indulgent, I will go to sleep at 8PM and sleep until I wake up. That is often around 9AM. In spite of my affinity for sleep, I am finding it to be a bit easier now to get my sleep schedule together. Waking up at 6AM is no longer difficult with an alarm.
My experiments with sleep has got me thinking about the purpose of sleep. A multitude of different ideas are out there, most of them beginning and ending with brain function. The general idea is that the nervous system needs a “shut-down” time to function appropriately when totally awake. However, if that is the case, shutting down would be unwise from an evolutionary standpoint. However, mammals are uniquely evolved in that although they (we) are unconscious when sleeping, they and we wake instantly in response to certain sensory stimuli. Parents will sleep through storms and sirens but awake instantly at the sound of their child’s whimper in the next room. Additionally, even living things without nervous systems like plants experience a cyclic “dormant” period. Sleep appears to make our brains more prepared to use and respond to unique data. Prolonged sleep or dormacy deprivation can kill rats, gnats, humans, and plants. It’s essential even if its purpose remains to be discovered.
Public Library of Science (2008, August 27). Exploring The Function Of Sleep. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 23, 2009, from http://www.sciencedaily.com /releases/2008/08/080825203918.htm
University of California – Los Angeles (2009, August 23). Why Sleep? Snoozing May Be Strategy To Increase Efficiency, Minimize Risk. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 23, 2009, from http://www.sciencedaily.com /releases/2009/08/090820161333.htm