FIP – Why do we sleep?

This week we are learning about sleep, as in how it affects our brains and ultimately how we function and get through the day.  We were given a TED Talks video to watch, in which Russell Foster gave three possible theories of what is affected by sleep.  Out of the three, I definitely agree with the third one he presented the most, which included information processing, memory building, and learning.  Many statistics have shown that those who are sleep deprived also tend to be under a considerable amount of stress.  A lack of sleep adds to these daily struggles by making it hard to concentrate and remember things throughout the day.  This could easily make someone resort to the consumption of caffeinated drinks, alcohol, and harmful drugs.  Another negative effect for loss of sleep is weight gain.  Lack of sleep has also been linked with either the cause of or adding to the severity of mental illnesses.  Russell Foster explained how a lack of sleep does not only affect your daily functions, but it affects your long-term well-being.

Personally, my sleep habits tend to change throughout the year.  Sometimes I can get on a pretty good sleep schedule and manage to get enough sleep throughout the week.  Of course, there are many weeks where I stay up too late working on homework and I end up getting about 5-7 hours of sleep each night.  Overall, I could definitely work on having a healthier sleep schedule and trying to stick with it throughout the whole year.  If I were to set a realistic goal for the amount of sleep (in hours) that college kids should be getting every night, I would say 8 hours is a healthy goal.  In my opinion, it’s enough sleep for students to wake up feeling refreshed, yet still giving them enough time for homework or other activities to do throughout the day.

argue for the theory you find most convincing (3rd one about brain structures), discussion of your current sleep habits how healthy you think they are. what is a realistic goal for amount of sleep per night for a college kid?

Week 6 First Impression – Consciousness

Russell Foster’s Ted Talk on sleep was very interesting. He discussed three theories about why we sleep. I was convinced by two of the theories. The first was the theory of restoration. Foster stated that certain genes, dealing with restoration and metabolic pathways, are turned on only during sleep. This seems very logical to me since we typically feel rested and energized after sleeping.

The second theory was that the theory of brain processing and memory consolidation. I had previously heard that sleep helps you remember what you study the night before but I had simply believed that it was just a random idea. Foster, however, stated that a study found that the ability to come up with novel solutions is enhanced (three fold) after a proper night of sleep. He also stated that emerging studies have shown that there could be a possible connection between mental illness and sleep disruptions. I believe this theory is valid because I have noticed that when I get less than 4 hours of sleep I begin to misspell words very often and it is harder for me to keep up while note-taking. This could be due to a decrease in brain processing as discussed by Foster.

Over the years we have studied and gained a better understanding of the importance of sleep yet people seem to be getting less and less of it. I personally know that sleep is essential yet as a college student, I sometimes feel like I have to choose between sleep or a decent GPA. As college students, we have to constantly be reading, studying, writing papers, taking exams, running clubs, attending meetings, and so many other activities. Getting 7-9 hours of sleep every night becomes simply impossible. On average, I sleep about 3-5 hours every night depending on how close I am to certain deadlines or exams. Even though I am very organized throughout the week and always try to manage my time properly, the large amount of work always piles up. I would say that this 3-5 hour range is fairly common among college students but I am aware that some may get much more or none at all.

I look forward to learning much more about sleep this week and about the possible support for each of the theories discussed by Foster.

Why We Sleep

Have you ever wondered why individuals sleep? Well, earlier this week I watched a Ted talk video, titled Why do we Sleep?, in which Russell Foster, circadian neuroscientist, discusses the neuroscience of sleep. In that video, he outlined three prominent theories about why we sleep which were restoration, energy conservation, as well as brain processing and memory consolidation. Out of these three theories I find the restoration theory to be the most convincing about why individuals sleep. I think this because when people sleep they restore the energy they have used up while awake. Proof of this is when a person has just finished performing an action that required a lot of effort, such as exercising or playing an intense game of football, and during or afterwards the person may feel tired and may just want to sleep. This is because they have exerted a great deal of energy and must recharge to gain that energy. And once people have rested they feel better than before, that is if they rested for an ideal amount of time because if not they will still feel a bit tired. I am not saying that the other two theories are not ideal, I just don’t believe that they are the primary reason to why individuals sleep. The reason why I keep saying individuals and not people is because animals need to sleep like people do.

I wish I could sleep more these days but unfortunately I do not have that pleasure. I am attending college and that means long nights filled with homework and studying. My current sleeping habits including going to sleep around one in the morning and then having to wake up around seven or eight a.m. on the weekdays. Because of this I tend to sleep in on the weekends till around lunch time, and that means I wasted several hours of getting homework completed and spending the rest of my day finishing assignments. I do take breaks, but that just causes me to stay up even later. I do not find my sleeping habits to be very healthy, honestly I should be going to be around 11 p.m. and waking up around 8 or 9 a.m. As I go through college, I want to able to catch some more Zs, and hopefully not in the classroom.



In the TED Talk, Russell Foster, outlines different theories that explains our need for sleep. He went on to discuss how 32 years of the human life is spent sleeping, which helps highlight how important sleep is to the human body.

Why do we sleep? According to Foster, restoration is one of the main reasons we need sleep. Through sleep we are able to restore the energy that we burned throughout the day. Also, sleeping at night tends to enhance our overall creativity because of “neural synaptic connections” are linked and strengthened while those that are less important tend to “fade away” (Foster).

Furthermore, Foster went on to discuss the effects of sleep deprivation stating that 31 percent of drivers microsleep and these instant uncontrollable naps are due to different energy draining attributes. He states, “Tired people are sometimes massively stressed which can result in memory loss — but stress can also cause the loss of sleep”. Weight gain was also a consequence of sleep deprivation. If you sleep 5 hours or less every night then you have a 50 percent more likelihood of being obese. This is due to sleep loss causing an increase in the release of the hunger hormone “ghrelin” which activates the hypothalamus.

How to detect sleep deprivation? Chances are you are sleep deprived if you, “rely on your alarm clock, you appear tired to others, you are easily irritable, you need tons of stimulants, and it takes you a long time to get out of bed” (Foster).

How to prevent sleep deprivation? Your bedroom should be turned into a “sleep haven” that will help encourage you to sleep. At the end of the day a light source in the room should not be allowed, but in the morning it could help you get into your biological sleep routine. I think that this method will help college students a lot in that it encourages us to sleep at night and rise for classes in the morning. A realistic amount of sleeping hours for college students should be 7-8 hours a night. According to the idea of restoration, 10-12 hours of sleep during the weekend would be beneficial for college students as well.

First impression: Why do we need sleep?

In this Ted Talk Russel Foster discusses sleep and its importance on human brain development and functioning. To begin Foster discusses what sleep is and how it happens, then he moves on to discuss three theories that attempt to explain why it is that humans need sleep. These theories are, Restoration, Energy Conservation, and Brain Functioning. Out of these three, as mentioned in the talk, it seems fairly obvious that energy conservation is not the reason we sleep. It seems to me that there is probably not one specific reason why sleep is so important, for this reason it is likely both restoration and brain functioning are reasons for humans to sleep. Just based off of personal experience, if I ever spend a day doing nothing physically or mentally taxing it is harder for me to fall asleep and I don’t sleep as well. This suggests to me that restoration is a fairly good place to start in describing the necessity of sleep. It is also true, however, that I can have mentally but not physically taxing days where I do not sleep as soundly because I can’t stop moving around in bed. The best sleep I ever get is after a really physically and mentally taxing day, which suggests to me that both restoration and brain function play a role in sleep necessity. Further, it seems intuitive to me that sleep would help recharge our brains and bodies, and improve the overall functioning of our brains. As this interpretation is based only on personal experience and a single viewing of this talk, there are undoubtedly gaps in my reasoning and chasms in my credibility.

Now it seems appropriate to discuss my own sleep habits with the information from this talk in mind. I try to get 8 hours of sleep each night (and am most often successful), as well as waking up on my own internal clock rather than relying on my alarm clock (which is set every night just in case). I found it very interesting when Foster talked about how waking up without an alarm clock means one got enough sleep because I often feel much better over the course of the day if I beat my alarm clock in the morning. I also try to open the blinds in the morning to get natural light in the room when I wake up which, according to the talk, is a good habit to be in. My habits, however, are not all good. I normally go to sleep with some lights still on in the room because my roommate is normally still awake when I go to bed, and Foster points out that this extra light stimulates the brain rather than helping to shut it down smoothly. I also generally wind down at the end of the day by watching about 30 minutes of netflix or youtube before I go to sleep which is a bad plan according to Foster. Recently I have been reading before bed, but I have not noticed a difference in my daily productivity/alertness. I would say that for a college student, 8 hours of sleep per night is easily reasonable if the student knows how to spend their time during the day (im pre-med, taking 5 classes, 2 labs, have a job, tennis practice every day, and I still get 8 hours) if I can do it, others can too. I should note however that my social life is limited due to the amount I spend doing school work during the day, so for someone more social than I, 8 hours may be more difficult. Overall I feel like I have good habits, however there is room to improve and after this Ted Talk I will definitely by trying some new things!

Why do we sleep?

In Russell Foster’s TED talk, he states that if a person slept 36% of the time, then they would have slept 32 years of their life by the time they were 90. So why would someone need to sleep for 32 years of a 90 year life? I find the brain information theory to be the most convincing theory of why we need sleep. The theory suggests that during out sleep cycle, our brain processes everything we learned that day. It sorts out the events that occured and the new information that we learned. Moreso, it determines which events and information to store as memory and which to get rid of. Currently, I sleep between 5-7 hours a night. This is inefficient because it doesn’t allow my brain enough time to store new information that I learn as memory. I wouldn’t consider this healthy for me because I constantly feel tired all the time due to consistent lack of sleep. I will try and use some of the tips Foster suggested at the end of his video, such as turning of all electronic devices, to increase my average hours of sleep a night. This, theoretically, will make me more focused and attentive in classes and other social settings.

Sleep is not for the weak

This weeks Ted talk covered sleep and its relationship to one’s overall health. The presenter did very well to explain the information in an friendly and easy to understand manner. He explained the three major theories as to why we sleep. The first explanation was restoration. This explanation revolved around the idea that we sleep so that we can restore and rebuild the energy we used during the day. The second theory for why we sleep was energy conservation, which proclaims that we sleep to save energy. The last theory for why we sleep was brain processing and memory conservation, which states that we sleep so that we can process the information we encountered through ought the previous day.

I find the first theory the most convincing. The presenter states in his talk that the energy conservation theory doesn’t really make sense because we only save about as much energy that is in a hot dog bun when we sleep and the last theory, while it was the presenters favorite, did not convince me that processioning is sleeps primary role. While I will say that it is possible we do process the information form the day in our sleep, I would argue that we sleep primarily to rebuild and restore the energy we used during the day. I believe this to be the case because, if we look at animals we will see that some sleep even longer than humans and I do not think that the primary reason that animals sleep is for brain processing. I could be wrong about that because I am not a specialist, and I know direct comparisons should not be made so lightly, but I think that sleep comes from a biological need to recuperate ones energy used during the day similarly to an animal’s need.

My current sleep habits are not that interesting. I go to bed at about 11:30 and fall asleep at 12:00. I wake up at 8:00 so I get about 8 hours of sleep. I think 8 hours of sleep is perfectly healthy for a college student, but any less than 6 is pushing it.

Why Do We Sleep?

Baby girl sleeping against drawings on blackboard, overhead view

A night’s sleep lost leads to a glut of aftereffects. That heavy gait, that groggy mind, that inability to tell words on a page from alphabet soup–all too familiar. Therefore, it baffles me that we don’t biologically know why we sleep, just that it certainly feels good. Three explanations were posited by Dr. Russell Foster during his TED Talk: sleep as a means of energy conservation, sleep as a means of physical restoration, and sleep as a means of handling memories and brain processes. Although all hypotheses are probably true to some degree, the last one seems to me the largest and most viable reason.

First, the idea that sleep is a means of energy conservation is supported by meager evidence. For instance, our bodies only save about one hundred calories per night’s worth of sleep–an amount equal to approximately one slice of bread. Even under the hunting-gathering conditions of our past, this seems to me a second-rate exchange for the dangers associated with being unconscious for eight hours.

However, there’s still problems with this. Firstly, we actually decrease our total protein production while we sleep. To me, it seems counterproductive for the body to decrease the number of essential building blocks available to it if the goal is repair work. Furthermore, stage 3 non-REM sleep is shown to be most beneficial to our physical health, and adults spend less than half our sleep time here. Contrastingly, we spend upwards of 50% in stage 2 non-REM sleep. Stage 2 non-REM sleep is responsible for memory consolidation and information processing, leading neatly to Foster’s final suggestion.

From experience, we know when we’re sleep deprived we’re fault to a number of follies like forgetting details, forgetting how to perform tasks, and being less creative in our problem solving; yet when we get a good night’s rest, our problem solving skills increase three times due to REM sleep, and our ability to retain information from the day before increases due to the time spent in stage 2 non-REM sleep. These characteristics are crucial in defining humans from other animals. From an anthropologic and historical sense, our intellect and ingenuity have led us to survive and thrive as a species for so long, and, thusly I’d say have a lot to do with our need for sleep.

I pulled the information for this post from this website. Although the authorship is ambiguous (you have to go to the “contact” page) it seems reliable as there are a number of reputable books and websites listed as the sources. Additionally, the information was presented in a clear cut manner as opposed to being superfluous, showing me the author had a somewhat put together concept of the subject material.


Russel Foster: Why do we sleep? [Video file]. (2013, June). Retrieved April 8, 2016, from

Mastin, L. (n.d.). Why Do We Sleep? – Physical Restoration. Retrieved April 08, 2016, from

Mastin, L. (n.d.). Why Do We Sleep? – Energy Conservation. Retrieved April 8, 2016, from

Mastin, L. (n.d.). Why Do We Sleep? – Memory Processing and Learning. Retrieved April 8, 2016, from

Why We Sleep

This interesting TED talk by Russell Foster talks about sleep and gives some background on how and why we view sleep the way we do in the world today. Foster stresses the importance of sleep and then points to how over the decades sleep has been viewed more and more negatively due to the lack of knowledge concerning what goes on while we are asleep. According to Foster, sleep is the “single most important behavioral experience” in humans. There are 3 big ideas about why we sleep that he mentions in his talk: restoration, energy conservation, and brain processing and memory consolidation. The restoration idea, first developed by Aristotle, is that everything we have burnt during the day is restored and rebuilt during the night. Science has proved that many genes only turned on during sleep so there is descent evidence for this theory. The second theory, energy consolidation, says that sleep is used to save calories. It is true that calories are saved during sleep but since this amount is only equivalent to a single hot dog bun, the idea is seen as unconvincing. Foster’s last and favorite idea was brain processing and memory consolidation. This one says that ability to learn a task while sleep deprived is much harder. Also, the ability to come up with solutions to significant and large problems is enhanced by a full nights rest by a three folds advantage. The important synaptic connections are linked together and strengthen during sleep while the less important ones just fade away.

Out of the three, I found the most convincing theory of why we sleep to be the memory consolidation and memory processing idea. In lecture we learned about study habits and sleep having effects on us. I remember going over how it would greatly benefit someone to study fairly close to when they go to sleep. The website showed me some more input on this particular idea. On this site, they talked about how sleep deprivation leads to reduced attention and limits on working memory. They state that sleep plays a huge part in memory consolidation after learning, like we learned in class, and also in getting ready for memory encoding before whatever learning experience is coming soon. It makes sense how people say that it’s best to get a good night sleep before classes, not only so you won’t be tired, but also so that you can encode and retain information easier. The information I got from the website all sounds and looks fairly legit, but at the end, there are no sources or proof of any true testing or knowledge. Luke Mastin is the head of this website and, according to further research, is a philosopher interested in anything that has to do with memory. This is a situation where, even though the author seems to most likely be credible, due to a lack of sources or references in the place we got the information there is no way we can declare this data valid.

Restoration Sleep Theory

After watching the TED talks video, I found the restoration sleep theory to be most convincing. As the speaker says in the video, essentially “stuff”, within the brain,  gets used up during the day. Around that time we are awake and we actively use our brains to solve problems, interact with other people, comprehending signs and readings as well as expressing ones feelings or emotions. When the day ends, during the night is when people tend to sleep and that is when the brain restores itself as the speaker also mentions that the brain is restoring, and building back up what was lost during the day. Currently back in fashion a lot more of people will probably start to believe in this theory as well. To further support my argument the following two articles, which both support the restoration theory, will be discussed. In the first article the theory is drawn out even more as the author says that while sleeping NREM “is important for restoring physiological functions, while REM “is essential in restoring mental functions”. Moreover the article continues to list research studies that have provided evidence to this theory such as the idea that “the brain utilizes sleep to flush out waste toxins”. In the second article explains different things about the theory such as the growth hormones that only release into the body during sleep and adenosine, a by product that when built up drives a person to become sleepy and it is only emptied from the brain during sleep as well. Lastly I cannot be sure of how trustworthy these articles are however I do believe they are beneficial and not misleading. In conclusion I believe that the restoration theory is the reason sleep is most important in why we, as people, need sleep.

Works Cited