There is still much studying to do on sleep. In fact, scientists do not even know why sleep is so beneficial for us, or why we feel sleepy when we “get too little” sleep. It has been theorized that there is a biological reason behind sleep, and this includes restoration of energy for the brain cells. Many also feel that sleep helps consolidate and solidify our memories.
A study in 2007 helped to show some of the changes that happen in the brain that lead to tiredness and the need for sleep. There is what is called a clock gene in everyone that correlates with the build up of “sleep debt”. Other studies have shown these genes to be linked with energy metabolism. Between the studies that have been done, the theory that sleep helps us regain energy is much closer to being proven correct.
It has also been shown that the natural variations in the clock gene between creatures, and even between individuals, can help show us many things, such as why some animals are nocturnal. It can also point to why some people consider themselves night owls, and others are morning people. Not only that, but with further study of the clock gene, we may be able to figure out why some people need more sleep than others, and why some function worse with large amounts of sleep. These studies make great strides in helping us understand the actual function of sleep and how it effects people on a more basic level.
Along with these studies we may be able to find out more information on mood disorders as well. The biology that makes up many of the common mood disorders, such as bipolar disorder, may have to do with circadian and sleep rhythms. Understanding more about why we sleep and what it is used for may help us make strides in figuring out these mood disorders as well.