"Although many different theories have been suggested to explain the function of
sleep, none has been widely accepted (Zepelin, Siegel, & Tobler, 2009). Common sense
suggests that a person is somehow re-energized during sleep, and many scientists and
members of the general public share this view. However, it has proved extremely difficult
to determine what sort of energy reserve is replenished during sleep, where this reserve is
located, when it is replenished, and how the process occurs (Rechtschaffen, 1998). Sleep
has long remained “one of the major unanswered questions in biology” and “one of
nature’s greatest mysteries” (Bennington & Heller, 1995, p. 347; Frank, 2010, p. 47)."
It's no wonder, for instance, that coffee generally makes people alert. The caffeine molecule is so similar to adenosine that it will bind to the relative receptors in our bodies to block the natural process and have the opposite effect.
It is also useful to study our circadian rhythms as they regulate the metabolism required for proper synthesis and development.
I, personally, don't consider it much of a mystery as there are clues for its purpose. Research in this area is currently progressive but I'd be wary of adopting too much of a teleological stance.
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