A lot of us aren’t aware of the importance of sleep in our lives. It has always been thought of merely as a time to rest and dream. That’s partly true, but there is more to it than closing one’s eyes and waiting for morning. Have you ever wondered why the body feels so revived and energetic after a good night’s rest? Or that one feels haggard, unconditioned or depressed after a bad one? How a person feels when he wakes up will define what kind of day he’s going to have.
It’s a misconception to think that when a person goes to sleep, the body will also shut down. That’s not true. On the contrary, the body will still be hard at work in maintaining physical health and healthy brain functioning. Sleep is the time, especially for kids and teens, for development and growth.
Sleep deficiency can cause damage to an individual, not only physically but mentally as well. Constant lack of it can cause incidents that can be dangerous to one’s well-being. It will affect the reaction time, way of thinking, work, and social life. Furthermore, a prolonged deficiency can lead to more serious health problems.
Sleep Affects All the Aspects of Life
Sleep can promote emotional well-being as well as the healthy functioning of the brain. Sleep will give the brain time to prepare for the next day’s activities. It will form new pathways, and these will help one learn faster with comprehension and will help in remembering information.
Many studies have been conducted on the importance of sleep. They have shown how a good night’s sleep can improve a person’s thought processes like decision making, creativity, and learning. On the other hand, sleep deficiency studies have been mostly negative. People who were sleep-deficient were poor in solving problems, decision making was easily irritated, and have a hard time coping with change.
Sleep plays a huge role in a person’s physical health. Continued deficiency in sleep can increase the chances of heart disease. The condition can also lead to kidney problems, diabetes, strokes, and high blood pressure. Many of those who are continuously deprived of sleep are usually obese, and this has something to do with hormone imbalances. Proper sleep can maintain the balance of hormones that can make one feel hungry or full. On the other hand, sleep deficiency will inevitably make one hungrier and thus will crave for food.
Blood sugar levels can also be affected by the lack of sleep. The body’s deprivation of required rest can affect the behavior of insulin. This is the hormone that regulates the blood sugar levels in the blood. There will be a greater risk of contracting diabetes when the sugar levels are high.
Sleep also promotes healthy development and growth. When the body is in a state of deep sleep, it triggers the release of hormones which are responsible for normal development and growth, especially among those of younger years. The same hormones will contribute to the increase of muscle mass and the repair of damaged tissues and cells. In the case of children and teenagers, sleep will have its role to play during their puberty stage.
The immune system depends on sleep to maintain its health. It takes care of the body’s defense against foreign substances that enter the body. It’s important to keep this immune system healthy, and sleep is a big factor in keeping it so. Sleep deficiency may alter the way the immune system responds to its duties. For instance, one will have a more difficult time warding-off an infection like a common cold if he’s sleep-deficient.
Finally, sleep also affects safety and daytime performance. Most of us have experienced that lousy feeling when we have been deprived of enough sleep. People become depressed, restless and can’t concentrate well. All these will have an impact on how one will function the whole day. People tend to become less productive when they’re at work, have slower reaction times and are prone to making errors. Some even show signs of aggression.
Losing sleep for a few days will impair the abilities to function normally. The condition might lead to micro-sleeping. This refers to short moments of sleep when one is supposed to be normally awake and are not aware of it.
The dangers of sleep deficiency are real, and people need to be informed about their effects. Many might not even know that they are sleeping deficient and mistakenly think that those limited hours or poor-quality of sleep they get is normal. Sleep deprivation can cause large-scale damage. For instance, errors can be made by sleep-deficient people who work in aviation and nuclear reactors. Such mistakes can be disastrous.
The Important Benefits of Sleep
It’s always a joy to wake up in the morning after a really good night’s sleep. One will feel energized and ready to face the challenges of the day. But the effects go far beyond feeling good because enough sleep can benefit the weight, mind, heart, and can even banish those under-eye circles. Listed are the benefits that a good night sleep can give:
Memory improvement. Surprisingly, the mind is still at work while one is snoozing. While sleeping, the mind can hone the skills and memories learned while awake through the process known as consolidation. Trying to learn a new concept or skill will be more appreciated after a good night’s snooze.
Promotes longevity. Although studies are not yet conclusive if too little or too much sleep can affect lifespan, it has been shown that sleep deprivation is linked to a shorter lifespan. Sleep should not be taken for granted. Logically, those who sleep well are healthier and will live longer.
Helps reduce inflammation. People who often have inflammations have higher risks of strokes, heart diseases, diabetes, premature aging, and arthritis. Studies have pointed to the lack of sleep as a cause of many of these disorders. Sleeping less than the recommended time can lead to higher inflammatory protein levels in the blood, and these can cause many body issues. The treatment of sleeping disorders can improve blood pressure and inflammations.
Encourages creativity. This should be really good news for creative people, particularly those who are involved in the arts. A night of good rest can consolidate the memories one has learned and makes them stronger because the brain can restructure and reorganize such thoughts. Studies have proven that adequate and stress-free sleep can make the emotional components of memories stronger, which can help increase creativity.
Improves attention. The lack of sleep may arouse different behaviors in adults and children. For adults, the deprivation can make them feel sleepy. Whereas in children, they tend to get more hyperactive and can result in ADHD-like symptoms.
Helps one maintain a healthy weight. Diet is just a factor in controlling weight. Another one is adequate sleep time, and this too needs to be planned. Metabolism and sleep are controlled by the same part of the brain. When sleeping, certain hormones are released into the bloodstream, and these hormones can drive appetite.
Helps lower stress levels. Both sleep and stress can contribute to our cardiovascular health either positively and negatively. Good sleep can reduce stress levels and consequently, better regulation of blood pressure. Lack of sleep can do the opposite. Furthermore, it’s believed that sleep does have some effects on cholesterol levels and has significant roles in heart health.
Helps prevent accidents. Many car accidents have been caused by drivers who are tired due to sleep deficiency, and there have been more of these than those caused by alcohol. The problem of sleep deprivation has been underestimated in causing harm not only to individuals but those around them as well. Driving requires decision making and fast reaction time, both of which are dulled because of sleep deficiencies.
May reduce the risk of depression. A good night’s sleep can immensely improve one’s attitude and well-being. That feeling of rejuvenation makes the body ready to face the day’s activities and issues. Good quality sleep can make one emotionally stable. A lack of sleep, however, can make one very irritable and for many, may lead to depression. Also, be reminded that sleeping longer on the weekends doesn’t compensate for the sleep hours missed on weekdays. It doesn’t work that way. One must have adequate hours of sleep every day, and there’s no making up on those.
Some Tips to Help You Sleep Better
Healthy sleeping habits can make a whole lot of difference when it comes to the quality of life. Sleeping hygiene should be consistently followed. Here are some practices that can help anyone have a good night’s sleep.
- Keep with a sleeping schedule. This applies to both bedtime and waking-up time and apply this to each day of the week. If a person lets his body get familiarized with the schedule, it would know when to sleep and remain asleep the whole night until waking time in the morning.
- Create a bedtime ritual that’s relaxing. Before going to sleep, engage in some relaxing activity, conducted in the absence of bright lights. This routine can help separate the sleeping time from the activities that can make falling asleep or stay asleep difficult.
- Avoid siestas if one has trouble sleeping. Afternoon naps could be good and relax but shun away if experiencing difficulties in sleeping at night. Some people find it more difficult sleeping at night if they indulge in siestas or catnaps.
- Exercise daily. Hard impact exercises will benefit a person most, but low-impact ones are also good, much better than not exercising at all. Do the exercises at daytime and be sure not do it at the expense of the sleeping hours.
- Think about the room. One may need to design his sleeping environment to comply with the conditions needed for sleep. For one, the room should be clean, cool, and away from any noise that could disturb the sleep. Also, use heavy curtains to minimize the amount of light. To help against these odds, consider eyeshades, humidifiers, earplugs, blackout curtains, fans, other devices.
- Use a comfortable mattress and pillows. Choose a supportive and comfortable mattress and pillows to help with sleep. The choices should also be free from allergens that might cause skin issues.
- Use a bright light to help regulate the circadian rhythms. This refers to something recurring naturally on a twenty-four-hour cycle, even in the absence of light fluctuations. Shun away from bright lights at night but get exposure to sunlight in the daytime. Doing so will keep the circadian rhythms well-balanced.
- Stay away from alcohol, heavy meals, and cigarettes in the evening. Heavy meals and spicy foods can give you a hard time in catching a good night’s sleep and most often may cause discomfort and indigestion. If one needs to eat plenty, which is still unhealthy, do so three or four hours before going to bed. Of course, we all know what cigarettes and alcohol can do, so we leave that to your discretion.
- Calm yourself down before going to sleep by doing some relaxing activity like reading a book or doing a crossword puzzle. Electronic devices would be distracting, so avoid them before bedtime or during sleep hours.
- If it’s difficult to sleep, go into a different room and perform a relaxing activity until you feel tired. Relaxing here does not include computers, work materials, or television sets. On the contrary, it’s advised to take them out of the environment where one sleeps. For sleep, only the bed matters.
If a person is still having trouble sleeping, try to speak with a doctor or to find a sleep professional. No shame in consulting the doctor for sleeping troubles. A remedy can be in the works, and a doctor could know. To supplement the consultation, keep a “Sleeping Diary” to find issues or patterns for the sleeping difficulty.
What Happens When You Don’t Get Enough Sleep?
Doctors will always suggest that everybody should get adequate sleep and for all the good reasons. Short-changing oneself on sleeping hours will affect the health in different ways. Short-term issues which may arise because of sleep deprivation include:
- A lack of concentration and alertness
- Impaired memory
- Stress in relationships
- Poorer quality of life
- Increased risk of car accidents
These are the effects of short-term sleeplessness. What more for the long-term ones? They should lead to more serious problems. Chronic sleep deprivation can lead to really serious conditions like high blood pressure, heart failure, heart attack, diabetes, and stroke. Potential problems can include being overweight, depression, and even the lowering of sex drives.
It’s a far-gone conclusion that chronic sleep deprivation will eventually affect a person’s appearance. We’ve seen the look of people who are deprived of sleep. They have prematurely aged and have bags and wrinkles around their eyes. When the body is deprived of sleep, it will increase the release of cortisol. This a stress hormone that breaks down the collagen in the body. Collagen is a type of protein that keeps the skin smooth, and its breaking down will result in aged skin. Although a lot of people don’t think of sleep as important, that’s far from true. Sleep is an essential part of health, and it’s also an essential part of life.