Sleep… the great equalizer.

Whether you wish for more sleep, or that you could skip it altogether, we spend roughly 8 hours a day, 56 hours a week, 240 hours a month, or 2,920 hours a year sleeping.

That’s 122 days per year, for those enjoying the math!

“To sleep, perchance to dream” muses Shakespeare’s Hamlet, but chance has nothing to do with it. We dream during a stage of sleep known as REM, or rapid eye movement which happens about 5 times in an average night, and if in each we “perchance to dream”, we’re racking up 1,825 dreams per year, whether you remember them or not!

But why do we sleep? There’s an old joke that the function of sleep is to cure sleepiness, but the truth is, despite decades of research we aren’t exactly sure why.

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We do know that good sleep is essential to good health, just like exercise and nutrition. It’s also a fundamental requirement for proper infant, child and adolescent development.

We can perhaps understand the role of sleep better by looking at sleep deprivation, which has a major impact on your brain’s ability to function – in other words, if you’re sleep deprived right now, you may need to come back and watch this video again – and it also severely affects our emotional and physical health.

Once upon a long time ago, people thought that sleep was nothingness, the opposite of being awake, but early in the 20th century, the invention of the EEG, formally known as the electroencephalograph, allowed us to begin learning what’s really going on behind those heavy eyelids. We discovered a series of sleep stages, each displaying distinct brain wave patterns, which repeat throughout the night. In fact, our brains are sometimes more active asleep than when we’re awake! But we still don’t really know why…

There are many theories of course:

1. The Inactivity Theory

The Inactivity Theory states that we adapted to sleeping as a survival function to keep us safe at times when we’d otherwise be vulnerable – like in the dark.

2. The Restorative Theory

The Restorative Theory focuses on sleep as the body’s way of repairing itself, as specific hormones, tissue repairs and other rejuvenating aspects specific to our body and brain, happen primarily, or sometimes only, during sleep.

3. The Information Consolidation Theory

The Information Consolidation Theory looks at cognitive research to suggest that we sleep in order to process all the information we’ve gathered during the day.

But these and other theories aside, the fact is that almost one in four Canadians, a full 23% of us, qualify as officially sleep deprived. Now there’s a thought that will keep you up at night!

And it’s not just us, sleeplessness is a global problem with researchers reporting sleep disturbances in the developing world at close to current North American percentages. “World Sleep Day” is an annual event, with over 200 World Sleep Day delegates raising awareness in over 50 countries around this sleepy globe of ours.

So what does research say is keeping Canadians up at night?

Stress is a big deterrent to slumber and Canadians who feel time-crunched sleep almost half an hour less than those who aren’t stressed for time.

Work also ranks high on the sleeplessness scale and the more we work, the less we snooze. Canadians working more than 30 hours a week average 24 minutes less sleep than those not currently working.

Pain is one of the biggest thieves of all when it comes to your sleep. In fact medical illness is the leading cause of insomnia with over 70% of patients reporting sleep problems. Ouch!

It’s time to put the focus back on a good night’s sleep! Take a look at where you can make changes to take better care of yourself and get the sleep that your body and brain crave.

Sweet dreams!

“Brought to you by the makers of Tylenol Nighttime”