Sleep For Health And Life
Have you ever wondered why we sleep? Sleep is as important for life as food and water. Humans and other animals sleep every day, yet the function of sleep is one of the biggest mysteries in biology.
When I was little, I was fascinated by microscopic phenomena that affect our health. Later, I learned that being a scientist would allow me to explore how these things worked. After exploring infectious diseases that affect plants and animals, I wanted to learn about the brain and the fascinating topic of sleep.
We have a clock in our brain that tells us when to sleep. This clock also determines the sleep pattern, or organization of sleep stages, throughout the night. I am interested in learning how disruptions in sleep patterns impact health. Specifically, in my postdoctoral work I studied how sleep disruptions affect learning, memory and our immune system.
Most of us have experienced the lack of alertness and the problems in remembering from not sleeping enough. Some of us have even become sick from lack of sleep. Sleep deprivation has been linked to obesity, diabetes, mood disorders and heart disease. Lack of sleep is a public health issue around the world. However, it’s not just the amount of sleep that matters, but the sleep pattern is important too. For example, fragmented sleep can be nearly as bad as sleep deprivation.
By understanding the interplay between sleep patterns and disease, we can better help people who have had their biological clocks challenged by jetlag or night shifts, for example. Through teaching and outreach, one of my goals is to help people understand the importance of sleep in our lives – even if we do not yet understand its function.