THE IMPORTANCE OF SLEEP
Previously, researchers and scientists believed that sleep was a block of time due to the shutting down the brain and the body. However, research studies conducted in the 40-50 years concluded that sleep has various stages with specific cycles. Each sleep cycle has predictable patterns at night.
Unlike historical beliefs and findings, modern research studies show that the brain and body stay active and adequately function when a person is asleep. However, different things occur during each sleep cycle or stage.
For example, some sleep stages relax your muscles and increase energy levels, so you feel calm and comfortable the next day. On the other hand, some sleep stages activate specific CNS parts and help your brain learn and make memories.
How Much Sleep is Enough?
Although each individual has different sleep requirements and cycles vary from person to person, most adults need at least seven to eight hours of sleep at night. Newborns or infants need at least 16 or 18 hours of sleep. Preschool children need 11 to 12 hours of sleep a day.
In addition, school-aged kids, adolescents, and teens need ten hours of sleep each night to streamline their physical and mental health and improve metabolic and homeostatic processes.
What Happens During Your Sleep?
Several research studies published in reputable journals like NCBI states that a person's brain and body undergo four stages of sleep. Each person has a different sleep cycle and varies in length and patterns.
A typical sleep cycle varies from 70 to 120 minutes and repeats itself at least four to five times during seven to nine hours of sleep at night. There are two primary sleep phases in a cycle or pattern:
Non-rapid eye movement or non-REM
Rapid eye movement or REM
Three out of four stages of sleep are non-REM, while one phase is REM. Deep sleep occurs in the last stage of non-REM and does not involve rapid eye movements. On the other hand, REM sleep, also known as the dreaming stage, causes quick eye movements.
Moreover, when you are asleep, your brain and body slow down and trigger recovery mechanisms to relax muscles, provide cells with nutrients/energy, and improve mental performance. The purpose is to help you prepare for the next day and feel fresh, calm, and relaxed.
What Happens to Your Health if You Don't Get Enough Sleep?
Adults' most common signs of sleep deprivation are daytime fatigue, irritability, mood changes, frequent yawing, and excessive sleepiness. Not sleeping properly at night can take a massive toll on your physical and mental wellbeing.
Besides, a lack of good night's sleep can worsen conditions like diabetes and hypertension. It may also lead to coronary heart disease, stroke, heart failure, weight gain or loss, metabolic disorders, homeostatic problems, renal issues, etc.
A 2010 research study shows that sleep deprivation can increase the risk of stroke and make people vulnerable to injuries from falls and accidents. The same study concludes that not getting enough sleep can increase the risk of early death.
The Effects of Sleep on Your Health
Proper sleep for 8-10 hours at night can benefit your health. It reduces stress hormones, including adrenaline and cortisol, slows your heart rate, and streamlines breathing. Low cortisol levels are directly proportional to improved mood and fewer episodes of distress, depression, or anxiety.
In addition, sleep calms down your mind and body by speeding up the production of melatonin, dopamine, serotonin, and endorphins. Dopamine and serotonin calm your mind, while endorphins relax muscles, reduce discomfort/pain, and produce an analgesic effect.
Moreover, healthy sleep improves your quality of life, increases motivation and self-confidence, makes you feel energetic, and reduces the risk of irritability. One study shows that sleep at night can balance glucose metabolism and hormones that regulate metabolic processes. Other benefits of quality sleep are:
A healthy heart
Strengthened immune system
Maintains a healthy weight