According to Helena Riess, Ph. D. humans seem to be the only mammal, who consciously, skip the amount of sleep needed for healthy functioning.
The result can be disastrous. Studies have shown that inadequate sleep can impact our mental and physical health in numerous ways. Cognitively, sleep is important to brain function for a number
Studies at the University of California at Berkeley have shown that during periods of sleep many mammals, use the time to clear out harmful molecules, like beta-amyloid, a protein associated with Alzheimer’s disease, that can build up and affect brain function while we are awake.
If these free radicals are allowed to build up, our susceptibility to brain diseases such as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s. or dementia are increased over time.
Still other studies have shown that lack of sleep can decrease our ability to fight off disease. Some have called sleep a “natural antibiotic” which, may increase our ability to fight off routine colds or even the flu.
According to Dr. Riess, increased or at least adequate sleep, is the best defense when flu season rolls around. “If more people would simply get enough sleep and allow their bodies to fight off the germs associated with flu, we might be able to strengthen our bodies so that we would not need to get flu shots at all.”