Over Thanksgiving break, I have been sleeping for almost 12 hours a night. I have actually done more sleeping than anything else. The universally "accepted" hours of sleep for proper function the next day is known to be 8 hours. I've noticed that when I sleep for more than 8 hours a night, I tend to be sluggish and unmotivated the next day. I've also noticed that when I sleep for 8 hours in any given night I tend to feel exactly the same, sluggish and unmotivated. But, the crazy thing is, I feel more awake and focused when I get less than 8 hours of sleep. Either I am programmed differently than everyone else in this world or this magic number of "8 hours" cannot be correct. This made me extremely curious about the subject so I tried to dig a little bit deeper.
According to the <a href="http://www.sleepfoundation.org/article/howsleep-works/how-much-sleep-do-we-really-need">National Sleep Foundation</a> the number of hours of sleep necessary for someone can vary. Various factors including, exercising, eating habits, and sleep consistency can all affect the amount of hours necessary for someone to sleep. This number of hours that an individual needs to sleep per night is completely variable depending on any number of these factors. This chart posted by the <a href="http://www.sleepfoundation.org/article/how-sleep-works/how-muchsleep-do-we-really-need">National Sleep Foundation</a> shows the estimated amount of sleep time necessary separated by age group. So it looks like this 8 hours of sleep per night "mumbo jumbo" has come to be known as a thing of the past.
If one's sleep schedule can be variable, do we actually require sleep? Can we survive without sleeping if our body says "keep going?" I personally think that if we accepted tiredness as a state of mind rather than a necessity, we could sleep for shorter hours of time per night and could be way more productive as a society. Imagine the feats we could accomplish if we, as a world, cut down the amount hours of sleep per night by 5 hours. Those five hours could be used to think, generate ideas, and innovate society. It could incidentally, propel us into the future of technology.
Now, when I express the idea of decreasing the amount of sleep per night by 5 hours I am being completely hypothetical. Sleep is essential for brain function during the day along with several other key functions of living. The good thing about sleep, is that you can always make up for lost sleep. According to <a href="http://www.helpguide.org/life/sleeping.htm">many studies concerning sleep and brain function</a>, if you struggle with sleeping during the week, sleeping more on the weekends can reenergize your brain allowing you to have more brain capacity come Monday morning. And more brain-power on Mondays, equals happy college students.
In short, yes we do need to sleep to live. It is a basic human function. <a href="http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=how-long-can-humans-stay">The Scientific American</a> claims that any given human being can live without sleep for around 8-10 days. But, eyesight would suffer and hallucinations would begin to occur. So yes, technically we cannot go on without sleeping at least a little bit each night. But my theory is that if everyone decreased the number of hours they sleep per night by just a little, we could accomplish many things.