Sleep plays an essential role in letting your body and mind recharge, leaving you invigorated and alert when you wake up.
Healthy sleep also encourages the body to remain healthy and stave off diseases. Without adequate sleep, the brain cannot function correctly. This can weaken your abilities to focus, think clearly, and process memories.
Most adults normally need between seven and nine hours of nightly sleep. Children and teenagers require substantially more sleep, especially if they are five years old or younger.
Work schedules, day-to-day stressors, disruptive bedroom conditions, and medical conditions can hinder us from getting enough sleep. For some, chronic lack of sleep may be the first indication of a sleep disorder. On the other hand, a healthy diet and positive lifestyle practices can help ensure enough sleep each night.
The Science Behind Sleep
After waking up, you’ll become more tired throughout the day. These feelings will increase in the evening leading up to bedtime. Also called the sleep-wake homeostasis, this sleep drive may also be connected to adenosine, an organic compound created in the brain.
Adenosine levels rise throughout the day as you become more tired, and then the body tears down this compound during sleep.
Light also affects the circadian rhythm. The brain carries a special region of nerve cells known as the hypothalamus. And a group of cells in the hypothalamus, called the suprachiasmatic nucleus, treats signals when the eyes are presented to natural or artificial light. These signals help the brain conclude whether it is day or night.
As natural light fades in the evening, the body will produce melatonin, a hormone that causes drowsiness. When the sun rises in the morning, the body will produce the hormone known as cortisol that increases energy and alertness.
Stages of Sleep
Once we fall asleep, our bodies develop a sleep cycle classified into four stages. The first three stages are identified as non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep, and the last stage is known as rapid eye movement (REM) sleep.
- Stage 1 NREM: This first stage indicates the transition between wakefulness and sleep and includes light sleep. Muscles rest and your heart rate, breathing, and eye movements start to slow down. The same thing goes with your brain waves, which are more alert when you are awake. Stage 1 normally lasts several minutes.
- Stage 2 NREM: This second NREM sleep stage is identified by deeper sleep as your heart rate and breathing rates keep on slowing down and the muscles become more relaxed. Eye movements will stop and your body temperature will lower. Apart from some short moments of higher frequency electrical motion, brain waves also remain slow. Stage 2 is normally the longest of the four sleep stages.
- Stage 3 NREM: This stage acts an essential role in making you feel refreshed and alert the next day. Heartbeat, breathing, and brain wave activity all enter their lowest levels, and the muscles will become as relaxed as they will be.
- Stage 4 REM: The first REM stage will happen about 90 minutes after you fall asleep. As the name implies, your eyes will move back and forth rather instantly under your eyelids. Breathing rate, heart rate, and blood pressure will start to rise. Dreaming will normally happen during REM sleep, and your arms and legs will become paralyzed. It’s considered this is meant to prevent you from physically acting out on your dreams. The span of each REM sleep cycle rises as the night progresses. Various studies have also linked REM sleep to memory consolidation, the process of turning recently learned occurrences into long-term memories. The duration of the REM stage will lower as you age, making you spend more time in the NREM stages.
These four stages will recur cyclically during the night until you wake up. For most people, the duration of every cycle will last about 90-120 minutes.
NREM sleep forms about 75% to 80% of each cycle. You may also wake up temporarily during the night but not remember the next day. These episodes are distinguished as the “W” stages.
How Much Sleep Do Humans Need?
The proper amount of sleep mostly depends on your age. The National Sleep Foundation suggests the following daily sleep allotment for varying age groups.
|Age Group||Age Range||Recommended Amount of Sleep per Day|
|Newborn||0-3 months||14-17 hours|
|Infant||4-11 months||12-15 hours|
|Toddler||1-2 years||11-14 hours|
|Preschool||3-5 years||10-13 hours|
|School-age||6-13 years||9-11 hours|
|Teen||14-17 years||8-10 hours|
|Young Adult||18-25 years||7-9 hours|
|Adult||26-64 years||7-9 hours|
|Older Adult||65 years or older||7-8 hours|
The Importance of Getting Enough Sleep
For most adults, at least seven hours of sleep every night is required for proper cognitive and behavioral functions. An inadequate amount of sleep can point to serious repercussions.
Some research has shown sleep deprivation makes people vulnerable to attention lapses, decreased cognition, delayed reactions, and mood shifts. Additionally, lack of sleep has been connected to higher risk for certain diseases and medical conditions. These includes obesity, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, poor mental health, and unexpected death.
On the other hand, some people can form a sort of tolerance to chronic sleep deprivation. Even though their brains and bodies strive due to lack of sleep, they may not be informed of their insufficiency because less sleep feels normal to them.
Adults who do not get enough sleep can change their lifestyle and habits to achieve proper and high-quality sleep. These comprise the following:
- Set a realistic bedtime and adhere to it every night, even on the weekends.
- Keep suitable temperature settings and low light levels in your bedroom.
- Make sure you have a healthy sleep environment, including comfortable mattresses, pillows, and sheets.
- Try performing a “screen ban” on televisions, computers and tablets, cell phones, and other electronic gadgets in your bedroom.
- Refrain from caffeine, alcohol, and large meals in the hours leading up to bedtime.
- Abstain from using tobacco at any time of day or night.
- Exercise during the day; this can help you turn down in the evening and settle for sleep.
Reasons Why Good Sleep is Important
A good night’s sleep is vital for your health. In fact, it’s just as significant as having a healthy diet and lifestyle.
Unfortunately, a lot can hinder natural sleep patterns. People are now sleeping less than they did in the past, and sleep quality has also declined.
A lack of sleep at night can make you irritable the next day. And over time, skimping on sleep can mess up more than just your morning routine. Research shows that having sleep regularly can help fix all sorts of issues, from your blood sugar to your workouts.
Here are 10 reasons why good sleep is necessary.
Poor sleep is linked to higher body weight
Poor sleep is heavily linked to weight gain.
People with short sleep duration tend to weigh significantly heavier than those who get enough sleep. In fact, short sleep duration is one of the biggest hazard factors for obesity.
Short sleep duration is connected with an increased risk of weight gain and obesity in both children and adults.
In one broad review research, children and adults with short sleep duration were 89% and 55% more likely to generate obesity, respectively.
The impact of sleep on weight gain is considered to be mediated by numerous factors, including hormones and the urge to exercise.
If you’re striving to lose weight, getting quality sleep is definitely crucial.
Good sleepers tend to eat fewer calories
Studies prove that sleep-deprived people have a bigger appetite and tend to eat more calories.
Sleep deprivation upsets the daily fluctuations in appetite hormones and is considered to cause poor appetite regulation. This includes higher levels of ghrelin, the hormone that triggers appetite, and reduced levels of leptin, the hormone that subdues appetite.
Poor sleep alters hormones that control appetite. Those who get enough sleep tend to consume fewer calories than those who don’t.
It is proven that when you’re well-rested, you’re less hungry. Being sleep-deprived disorders with the hormones in your brain — leptin and ghrelin — that manage appetite.
With those out of balance, your invulnerability to the temptation of unhealthy foods runs way down. And when you’re exhausted, you’re less likely to aspire to get up and move your body. Together, it’s a formula for putting on pounds.
The time you waste in bed goes hand-in-hand with the time you consume at the table and at the gym to help you manage your weight.
Good sleep can improve concentration and productivity
Sleep is essential for various features of brain capacity. This includes cognition, concentration, productivity, and performance.
All of these are negatively influenced by sleep deprivation. A study on medical interns gives a good example.
Interns on a traditional schedule with longer work hours of more than 24 hours made 36% more serious medical faults than interns on a schedule that permitted more sleep. Another study discovered that short sleep can negatively influence some aspects of brain function to a similar degree as alcohol intoxication.
On the other hand, good sleep has been shown to develop problem-solving skills and enhance the memory performance of both children and adults.
Enough sleep can maximize problem-solving skills and improve memory. Poor sleep has been shown to weaken brain function.
When you’re running low on sleep, you’ll probably have difficulty holding onto and remembering details. That’s because sleep plays a huge part in both learning and memory. Without adequate sleep, it’s tough to concentrate and take in new information. Your brain also doesn’t have ample time to properly store memories so you can pull them up later.
Sleep allows your brain to catch up so you’re ready for what’s next.
Good sleep can maximize athletic performance
Sleep has been shown to improve athletic performance.
A study done on basketball players with longer sleep has shown some significantly increased speed, accuracy, reaction times, and mental well-being.
Less sleep duration has also been linked with poor exercise performance and functional constraint in older women.
A study in over 2,800 women found that inadequate sleep was connected to slower walking, lower grip strength, and greater struggle performing independent activities. Longer sleep has been shown to enhance several aspects of athletic and physical performance.
If your sport demands swift bursts of energy, like wrestling or weightlifting, sleep loss may not affect you as much as with perseverance sports like running, swimming, and biking. Still, you’re doing yourself a disservice.
Besides stripping you of energy and time for muscle rehabilitation, lack of sleep drains your motivation, which is what takes you to the finish line. You’ll encounter a harder mental and physical difficulty — and notice slower reaction times.
Proper rest sets you up for your most excellent performance.
Poor sleepers have a greater risk of heart disease and stroke
Sleep quality and duration can produce a major impact on many health risk factors. These are the circumstances believed to start chronic diseases, including heart disease.
An examination of 15 studies discovered that people who don’t get enough sleep are at a far higher risk of heart disease or stroke than those who sleep 7–8 hours per night.
Sleeping less than 7–8 hours per night is connected to an amplified risk of heart disease and stroke.
While you sleep, your blood pressure decreases, allowing your heart and blood vessels a bit of a rest. The less sleep you obtain, the chances of longer blood pressure risk you’ll get during a 24-hour cycle.
High blood pressure can lead to heart disease, including stroke. Thus, short-term downtime can surely have long-term payoffs.
Sleep reduces risk of Type 2 Diabetes
Experimental sleep limitation influences blood sugar and reduces insulin sensitivity.
In research in healthy young men, limiting sleep to 4 hours per night for 6 nights in a row caused symptoms of prediabetes.
These symptoms are determined after one week of improved sleep duration. Poor sleep practices are also strongly connected to adverse effects on blood sugar in the overall population.
Those who are just sleeping less than 6 hours per night have frequently been shown to be at an increased risk of type 2 diabetes.
Sleep deprivation can produce prediabetes in healthy adults in as short as 6 days. Several studies show a strong connection between short sleep duration and type 2 diabetes.
During the deep, slow-wave portion of your sleep cycle, the amount of glucose in your blood falls. Not enough time in this most profound stage indicates you don’t get that break to enable a reset. It’s like you forgot to turn the radio’s volume down.
Your body will have a more difficult time reacting to your cells’ requirements and blood sugar levels. Let yourself reach and settle in this deep sleep, and you’re less likely to get type 2 diabetes.
Poor sleep is linked to depression
Mental health problems, such as depression, are strongly associated with poor sleep quality and sleeping disorders.
It’s been concluded that 90% of people with depression grieve about sleep quality. Individuals with sleeping disorders like insomnia or obstructive sleep apnea also report significantly greater rates of depression than those without.
Poor sleep is even connected with an augmented risk of death by suicide.
Sleep improves your immune function
Even a little loss of sleep has been proved to impair immune function.
One large 2-week study observed the growth of the common cold after giving people nasal drops with the cold virus. They discovered that those who slept less than 7 hours were almost 3 times more likely to catch a cold than those who slept 8 hours or more.
If you frequently get colds, ensuring that you get at least 8 hours of sleep per night is essential. That’s because quality sleep strengthens your immune system, which you need to prevent the common cold. Eating more garlic can surely help as well.
Your immune system recognizes harmful bacteria and viruses in your body and stops them from spreading all over your body. Lack of sleep alters the way your immunity cells operate. They may not attack as swiftly, and you could get sick more frequently.
Good nightly rest now can help you bypass that tired, worn-out feeling, as well as spending days in bed as your body tries to recuperate.
Poor sleep is linked to increased inflammation
Sleep can produce a major impact on inflammation in your body. In fact, sleep loss is known to stimulate undesirable markers of inflammation and cell destruction.
Poor sleep has been strongly connected to long-term inflammation of the digestive tract. This is called inflammatory bowel disease.
One study noted that sleep-deprived people with Crohn’s disease were twice as prone to relapse than patients who slept well. Researchers are even suggesting sleep evaluation to help predict results in individuals with long-term inflammatory problems.
Sleep influences your body’s inflammatory responses. Poor sleep is associated with inflammatory bowel diseases and can enhance your risk of disease recurrence.
Sleep affects emotions and social interactions
Sleep loss lessens your ability to interact socially.
Several studies proved this with the use of emotional facial recognition tests. One study discovered that people who hadn’t slept had a decreased ability to identify expressions of anger and happiness. Researchers conclude that poor sleep influences your ability to recognize important social cues and process emotional information.
Another thing that your brain does while you sleep is processing your emotions.
Your mind demands this time to identify and react the right way. When you cut that short, you tend to respond negatively more often.
Chronic lack of sleep can also boost the chance of having a mood disorder. One comprehensive study showed that when you have insomnia, you’re five times more likely to generate depression, and your odds of anxiety or panic disorders are even more prominent.
Sleep requirements vary. However sleeping more than 9 hours a night may cause more harm than good. Experts found that people who slept longer had more calcium accumulation in their heart arteries and less flexible leg arteries, too.
Your best bet is to aim for 7-8 hours of sleep every night for peak health advantages.
Along with nutrition and exercise, enough sleep is one of the pillars of health. You simply cannot reach optimal health without quality sleep.