It was getting difficult for Rishi to concentrate on his projects. No creative ideas were crossing the mind despite several sessions of brainstorming. It seemed as if the functioning of the brain had slowed down. He also experienced mood changes which drastically affected his reputation. What was happening?
Rishi was skipping hours of sleep to work on an important project. These were the consequences he had to face. It was difficult for him to get sleep early. His circadian rhythm was disturbed. Is sleep so important?
Why do we need sleep?
Sleep is a critical function that allows the body and mind to rejuvenate leaving you refreshed and aware when you wake up. Healthy sleep also maintains the body helping it to remain healthy and prevent diseases.
The brain cannot function accurately without enough sleep. It also improves your abilities to process memories concentrate or think clearly. Usually, adults require between 7 to 9 hours of sleep. Children and teenagers need substantially more sleep particularly if they are younger than 5 years of age.
Works schedule day-to-day stresses medical conditions a disruptive bedroom environment can hamper efficient sleep. A healthy diet and possible Lifestyle habits play an essential role to ensure an adequate amount of sleep each night.
Sleep plays an essential role in good health and mental wellbeing throughout life. Quality sleep at the right times can protect mental health, physical health and safety. The way you feel while you are awake also depends on how you sleep. During sleep, your body is working to support a healthy brain function and maintain your physical health.
Sleep also helps support growth and development in children. Harm from sleep deficiency can occur in an instant or it can show its effects over time. Consistent sleep deficiency can raise your risk for some chronic health problems. It can also create a drastic impact on how you think, react, work, learn and get along with others.
Sleep is required to survive just like we need food and water. No wonder that we spend one-third of our lives in sleep. Several biological processes also occur during sleep:
The brain stores new information and does away with toxic waste.
Nerve cells reorganize and communicate which supports a healthy brain to function.
The body repairs cells, restores energy and also releases molecules like hormones and proteins.
How much sleep is enough?
The amount of sleep you require each day will change over the phases of life. Also, sleep needs vary from person to person.
While infants aged 4 -12 months require 12-16 hours of sleep a day children aged 12 years require 11-14 hours of sleep a day. Between the age of 3-5, the recommended amount of sleep is 10-13 hours a day. For children aged 6-12, 9-12 hours of sleep a day is enough. Teens require 8 -10 hours of sleep a day. On the other hand, adults aged 18 years or older need no more than 7-8 hours a day.
Why is sleep important?
According to the energy conservation theory sleep is required to conserve energy. Sleeping helps reduce our calorie value by spending some part of our time functioning at a lower metabolism. Metabolism rate drops during sleep. Research also said that 8 hours of sleep for human beings can produce a daily energy saving of 35% over complete wakefulness. This theory also says that the main purpose of sleep is to reduce a person’s energy use during times of the day and night when it is not convenient and less efficient to hunt for food.
Restoration of cells
The restorative theory says that the body requires sleep to restore itself. Sleep allows the cells to repair and regrow. Several important processes including muscle repair, protein synthesis, tissue growth and hormone release happen during sleep which helps the body to function efficiently.
Plasticity theory says that sleep is essential for the functioning of the brain. It allows the neurons of the cells in the brain to reorganize. While you sleep your glymphatic system cleans the central nervous system and removes toxic by-products from your brain which also collect throughout the day. This allows the brain to function efficiently during wakefulness. Sleep has a direct impact on several aspects of functioning including learning, memory, problem-solving skills, creativity, decision making, focus, and concentration.
Sleep also takes care of your emotional health. During sleep, the activity of the brain also increases in the sections that regulate emotions hence supporting healthy brain function and emotional stability. Sleep is directly connected to mental health. Sleep disturbances can contribute to the onset of Mental Health disorders.
Insulin plays an essential role in helping the cells to use glucose or sugar for energy. But if your cells do not respond properly to the insulin it can lead to high blood glucose levels. Sleep can protect against this resistance of insulin. It also helps in keeping the cells healthy so that they can easily take up glucose.
Sleep also has a direct impact on the immune system. Sleep deprivation can prohibit the immune response and make the body susceptible to germs. While you sleep your body produces cytokines which are proteins that help fight against infection and inflammation. It also produces special antibodies and immune cells. These molecules help in preventing sickness by destroying harmful germs. And that is the reason why sleep is so important while you are sick or stressed.
Maintenance of weight
Sleep also affects weight by controlling the Hunger hormones which increases the feeling of being full after eating. During sleep, the secretion of these hormones decreases because you are using less energy than while you are awake. Lack of sleep however makes you hungry which may increase the risk of eating more calories and gaining weight.
A healthy sleep schedule leads to a healthy heart. Getting less sleep on a regular basis can have adverse effects on the heart. Lack of sleep is associated with several factors including high blood pressure, increased inflammation, elevated cortisol levels, weight gain, and insulin resistance.
What happens when you sleep?
Your body undergoes four stages of sleep. This cycle occurs several times throughout the night for different lengths varying from 70 to 120 minutes each. The pattern includes two major phases of sleep– non-rapid eye movement i.e. non-REM sleep and rapid eye movement i.e. REM sleep.
As the name says non-REM sleep features the absence of eye movements whereas, in REM sleep, dreaming occurs. Usually, adults require at least seven hours of sleep each night for proper cognitive and behavioral function.
An insufficient amount of sleep can lead to serious consequences. Sleep deprivation also leaves people vulnerable to delayed reactions, mood shifts, attention lapses and also reduced cognition. People can also develop some sort of tolerance to chronic sleep deprivation. Even though brains and bodies find it difficult due to lack of sleep they may not be aware of their deficiencies as less sleep may feel normal to them.
Furthermore, lack of sleep has been linked to a higher risk for certain disorders and medical conditions. High blood pressure, heart diseases, poor mental health, obesity, type 2 diabetes, early death are some of these.
Adults who are unable to receive a sufficient amount of sleep each night can implement some tips for a good lifestyle and sleep habits in order to absorb the needed 7 to 9 hours of sleep.
Tips on how to sleep
Maintain a consistent sleep schedule every night even on weekends.
Maintain a comfortable temperature and low light level in your bedroom.
Use a comfortable environment including a mattress, pillows, blankets and sheets.
Prevent using electronic devices like computers, tablets and cell phones in your bedroom.
Refrain from caffeine alcohol and large means some hours before bedtime.
Exercising during the day can help you use up some of your energy and promote sound sleep.
Symptoms that you are Not getting enough sleep
Sleep deficiency can cause you to feel drowsy and tired during the day. You may not feel fresh and alert when you wake up. Sleep deficiency also interferes with work, social functioning, school and driving.
You might be sleep deficient if you could doze off
While-Reading or watching TV
Sitting in a public place such as a cinema hall or a classroom.
Driving for an hour without stopping
Sitting quietly after lunch
While talking to someone
Sleep deficiency can have adverse effects on learning focusing and reacting. You may also face trouble while making decisions, solving problems and remembering things. It might become difficult for you to control your emotions, behavior and cope with change. You may take longer to finish a task and you are more vulnerable to make mistakes.
Sleep helps the body to stay healthy and function properly. It lets your body and brain repair, restore and reenergize. Not getting enough sleep can have adverse effects like poor memory and focus, loss of concentration, weakened immunity, and mood changes. Usually, adults need 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night. If you are having trouble sleeping see a doctor or a specialist. They can determine the cause and also help improve your sleep schedule.