Our bodies all require long periods of sleep in order to restore and rejuvenate, to grow muscle, repair tissue, and synthesize hormones. How Much Sleep Do We Really Need? Healthy sleep is critical for everyone, since we all need to retain information and learn skills to thrive in life.Within the brain, sleep enriches our ability to learn, memorize, and make logical decisions. It recalibrates our emotions, restocks our immune system, fine-tunes our metabolism, and regulates our appetite.ReflectionsDecember 10, 2018 Issue
Why We Sleep, and Why We Often Can’t
Does our contemporary obsession with sleep obscure what makes it special in the first place?
By Zoë Heller
December 3, 2018
Gif of woman laying by her phone
“Men who sleep badly,” Bertrand Russell wrote, “are always proud of the fact.”Illustration by Jun Cen
Contemporary sleep evangelizers worry a good deal about our social attitudes toward sleep. They worry about many things, of course—incandescent light, L.E.D. light, nicotine, caffeine, central heating, alcohol, the addictive folderol of personal technology—but social attitudes seem to exercise them the most. Deep down, they say, we simply do not respect the human need for repose. We remain convinced, in contradiction of all the available evidence, that stinting on sleep makes us heroic and industrious, rather than stupid and fat.
“If we don’t continue to chip away at our collective delusion that burnout is the price we must pay for success, we’ll never be able to restore sleep to its rightful place in our lives,” Arianna Huffington wrote a couple of years ago, in her best-selling how-to guide “The Sleep Revolution.” By way of inspiration, she offered her own conversion story.