On the surface, sleep may seem like an evolutionary disaster, but its benefits have come to outweigh its potential downsides.
We spend about one-third of our lives sleeping, but much of that function remains a mystery. Weekend Edition Sunday is asking some pretty fundamental, yet complicated, questions about why we do it and why we can't seem to get more of it.
Dr. Matthew Walker says the question of why we sleep remains "that archetypal mystery."
Walker, the principal investigator at the sleep lab the University of California, Berkeley, works with patients who suffer from sleep abnormalities. He says the complexity of sleep makes the research that much more fascinating.
"There have been so many great discoveries within science based on the revolution of sort of genetics and molecular biology, and sleep remains resistant to all of that in terms of an answer," he tells Weekend Edition host Rachel Martin.
Walker says there have been several critical discoveries, however, illuminating how sleep helps us learn and retain information. Researchers are also taking note of the negative side effects of not getting enough sleep.
Research on learning suggests "sleep is critical at almost all stages of memory formation, memory processing and long-term memory retention," he says.
Science also backs up historical anecdotes about how sleep fosters creativity.