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It is widely believed that sleep has a restorative function, both psychologically and physically, but what precisely is being restored during sleep? Presumably the cells that make up our body. They increase in numbers by a process of division, especially in our early years, and are replaced when damaged. Sleep probably facilitates the process of cell growth and the regeneration of bodily functions. To some extent this might also occur while we are awake, but ideally it requires a redirection of our energy resources away from the organs involved in waking activity. Thus, most of the body's machinery shuts down for the night in order to conserve enough energy for cell growth and regeneration. Like recharging the batteries of an electric car, it does not matter when it is done provided it occurs with some regularity - otherwise, performance becomes progressively slow and unreliable.
|Jennifer Mathes, Ph.D.|