For the most part scientists are still unsure as to exactly why sleep is not just important but in fact absolutely necessary for our very survival. The quality of sleep will find you either surviving or thriving and there are many factors that surround restorative sleep. Many experiments and tests to find out how and why we sleep and hypothesis about universal dream repositories and collective consciousness being accessed during REM are out there floating around.
What I do know from personal experience is that regardless of the quality of my sleep I will (with the study/party/study/sleep cycle of my 20s long over) nod off and fall asleep as early as 7:30 pm right after the kids story time.... and usually wake feeling refreshed and light! I am also a big dreamer and can often recount the dreams in quite a bit of detail... even if they don't make a lot of sense! Like the The lion, the witch and the wardrobe movie - a dream, seemingly spanning an epic time frame, can take place in the gap of the average snooze; which often has lead me to wonder about the nature and reality of 'real time'. Anyhow this is not a conversation about time or sleep quality or quantity. I am not a sleep scientist and have only my own sleep habits and disturbances to work from. So this is up there with the beliefs that surround a lot of the 'things' we can't prove, haven't proved yet, or will never prove as that would defeat the whole purpose of 'forgetting' and having this life-time's physical experience in the first place.
I have long believed that I do not 'stay put' when I sleep. I had some rather unconventional stuff happen when I was a young child and sometimes found myself looking down at my body with somewhat of a confused awareness that I was there... and here/there too at the same time seemingly hovering above myself. I mostly kept this to myself for fear that I would be laughed at or the other fear that there was something 'very not quite right' with me. I already felt things that 'weren't there' and could hear and see things that no-one seemed to talk about so the sleeping 'out of my body' thing went into my box of 'shit no-one needs to know about.' I have spent most of my life in an empath 'wide-open' state, which is highly unrecommendable, confusing at best, draining and damaging at worst.
After years of reading books, figuring myself out, heaps of courses, tutorials, studying and learning how the 'subtle' world works I have formed some really great 'Thrive' habits and one of them is Sleep - Glorious sleep! I love my bed and can drop off to sleep in a heartbeat (I wasn't always like this - OCD loves the midnight hours and I had spades of it through my late 20s and 30s.)
I asked my life guide/guardian angel one morning during meditation why we sleep and why we HAVE to sleep. This is what came through:
We are like batteries. When we sleep we 'reconnect' with source energy - the true energy source and we recharge 'ourselves' through soul. Physical living is not only a nutritional and hydration job. Our being requires soul (charge) energy in order to remain 'intact' and function wholly. When we do not 'plug' into source energy during sleep we lose soul energy within our body which is the true source of our animating energy. The more our connection is lost the more our body moves out of vitality/light and eventually towards organ and systems failure and death. This is because it is 'run' by a different dimension energy source - we can not replace this energy 'charge' with anything a physical world can provide as we are first soul (spirit) energy that is having a physical experience. Depression is increased with sleep deprivation as 'we' are disconnected from the source of love and joy and our hormonal systems also suffer alongside this on a physical level. We are here, but not here - we are like a rechargeable battery and need soul source energy.
So this helped me understand just how important it is to sleep and heal to remain connected and soulFULL. I have found a sense of peace knowing that when I do 'plug in' or 'OUT' if you like (depending where you enjoy spending most of your time - in soul or body...) you are giving your physical body the gift of a higher power.
Rest, sleep and heal. Just for today: Recharge your soul so you can be your best.