The Biology of Sleep

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It is now a medically accepted fact that sleep is essential for the proper functioning of the body. This paper elucidates the importance of sleep and the possible consequences of sleep deprivation. It also concentrates on the molecular aspect of sleep and the circadian rhythms.


Human beings often underestimate the importance of sleep in their lives. Contrary to popular belief, sleep is not a passive phenomenon. It is a dynamic process during which the body recharges, recovers and recuperates. Several physiological systems of the body undergo repair while we sleep. Thus, sleep deprivation can lead to serious health implications.
According to the National Sleep Foundation in the United States, human infants require as much as sixteen hours of sleep, while human adults require about eight to nine hours of sleep every night. Women in the first 3 months of pregnancy often need several more hours of sleep than usual. The amount of sleep a person needs also increases if he or she has been deprived of sleep in previous days. Sleep is particularly important for the brain. Even 24 hours of continuous wakefulness can lead to reduced memory and concentration ability, hallucination and mood swings.
Precisely how sleep affects human beings is still an area of intense research. Scientists are still trying to comprehend the molecular and physiological functioning of the body in the sleeping stage. But studies conducted so far have only reiterated that sleep is essential for survival. One such study conducted on rats revealed that sleep deprived rats had a severely shortened life span and a breakdown in the immune system. ...
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