Importance Of Sleep
Ever thought about why sleep is necessary? According to the National Sleep Foundation, USA sleep is essential for people’s health and wellbeing. We spend about one-third of. Sleep and health are strongly connected. Along with nutrition and exercise, sleep forms a critical pillar of health. Sleep helps us recover, restore and revitalize our bodies on a daily basis.
Poor quantity and quality of sleep can have serious short and long-term health consequences. Compromising our sleep can lead to serious physical and mental health problems. Common mental health problems like anxiety, depression, etc can affect a person’s attention, focus, perceptions, mood, and behavior. Often people seek treatments for mental health problems which often involve the use of prescription medications whereas counseling, meditation, Yoga, and Sleep improvement techniques remain grossly underutilized as non-prescription therapies. Research shows that Up to 70 percent of people in the world may suffer from different sleep disorders.
Understanding Healthy Sleep
In today’s world, a night of good sleep has become increasingly elusive. We have lost the art of sleep and find ourselves sacrificing sleep for work, chores, social media, and entertainment. However, sleep is as important to our physical and mental health as food and water. Ongoing research finds answers to several questions, such as what happens to our bodies and brains when we sleep. We now know that sleep is necessary for the body to recharge, to maintain important physiological functions, for the growth and repair of muscles, tissues, and proper brain functioning.
We are beginning to understand the risks of poor sleep. The range of mental and physical problems, especially impairing our ability to think, focus, react and regulate emotions are only the tip of the iceberg.
Basic types of sleep
REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep and NON- REM sleep includes 3 different stages linked to specific brain waves and neuronal activity. The body and brain cycle through NREM and REM sleep throughout the night. Each cycle takes 90 min approximately and adults need approximately 4-6 cycles on a nightly basis.
Stage 1 occurs when you just fall asleep (usually less than 10 minutes). It is described as light sleep from which you can be awakened easily. Here the brain waves begin to slow down, muscles relax with slow movements of the eye.
Stage 2 occurs when brain waves further slow down and In this stage, muscles become more relaxed, and heart rate and breathing are more uniform. The brain begins to have slow-wave activity. We spend more time ( roughly 50 % ) of our sleep duration in this stage than in any other stage.
Stage 3 Occurs when brain waves slow down the most and muscle growth and repair are at their peak during this stage. This usually occurs in the first half of the night. This stage comprises around 20% of total sleep. During this stage, it is hard to wake up someone, and heart rate and breathing remain slow and steady. . Muscles are relaxed as well.
REM ( Rapid Eye Movement) sleep ( also called Dream Sleep) is an interesting stage of sleep. It occurs for the first time about 90 minutes after falling asleep. The eyes and eyelids flutter, moving rapidly from side to side behind closed eyelids, hence the name RAPID EYE MOVEMENT Mixed frequency brain wave activity becomes closer to that seen in wakefulness. REM sleep occurs predominantly in the second half of the night.
Breathing becomes irregular, heart rate and blood pressure increase to near waking levels. During REM sleep, it is normal to see erratic breathing and heart rates. Many times humans can recall their dreams during REM and these can often be bizarre and unusual.
Although we do dream in NREM sleep, usually don’t recall those.
During REM sleep, we experience physiologic paralysis of voluntary muscles such as arms and leg muscles which prevents us from acting out in dreams. A human body usually processes through these 3 stages of non-rapid eye movement before entering REM. After falling asleep it takes one to two hours, every night this cycle repeats about three to four-six times. The study says that an adult spends more time in Non-REM (75 %) than in REM (25 %) and an infant usually spends half of the time in Non-REM sleep and half time of sleep in REM.
What Are the Signs Of Excessive Sleepiness?
Irritable mood, forgetfulness, and sleepiness are some of the first signs a person experiences from lack of sleep. If the person doesn’t sleep after the initial signs, the person may then start to experience apathy and flattened emotional responses.
Sleep deprivation signs:
- Increased pain perception
- Daytime Fatigue
The process starts from compromised mental health abilities and also puts our physical health at risk. Several problems get linked to poor sleep from weight gain to a weakened immune system. Poor sleep increases the risk of heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, attention deficit, inability to focus and concentrate, and memory deficits.
Amount Of Sleep Required
Sleep schedules may not be a major priority for many, but getting optimal sleep is paramount. We may not realize but sleep t is critical to our health in many ways. It affects our weight, appetite, metabolism to our brain function, and mood.
According to the National Sleep Foundation in the US, Here are sleep guidelines for different age groups
- Birth to 3 months: 14 to 17 hours
- 4 to 11 months: 12 to 16 hours
- 1 to 2 years: 11 to 14 hours
- 3 to 5 years: 10 to 13 hours
- 6 to 12 years: 9 to 12 hours
- 13 to 18 years: 8 to 10 hours
- 18 to 64 years: 7 to 9 hours
- 65 years and older: 7 to 8 hours
What Causes Sleep Problems?
Basic factors cause of sleep problems:
- Physiological system: it includes the brain and our central nervous system. This is the headquarters or mission control for our body. Sleep is critical for its proper functioning. Insomnia, Medical problems, medications, stress and anxiety can also worsen overall sleep quality.
- Environmental issues: Common problems occur from the workplace or our surroundings. Environmental factors such as noisy room, the temperature of the room, lights can be all be barriers to proper sleep. Interruptions from family members , pets, and neighbours can also disrupt sleep.
People may also end up experiencing excessive sleepiness during the day and fall into microsleeps during the day. This is when they fall asleep for a few to several seconds realizing it. It could be dangerous, especially during critical tasks such as driving, and increase the risk of motor vehicle accidents.
- Immune system: When we sleep, our immune system produces various protective agents such as antibodies and cytokines. Cytokines help us to sleep and provide efficiency to our immune system to defend against illness.
To-Do list for better sleep
To improve your sleep health, follow the following tips-
During The Day
- Increase exposure to sunlight. This can help in maintaining the body’s circadian rhythms, which positively affects your sleep-wake cycle.
- Exercise regularly, before going to sleep schedule some workouts. Vigorous Exercises close to bedtime may lead to interrupted sleep. Light stretching and yoga may be beneficial.
- A power nap is helpful if it is less than 30 min in duration, but longer naps may negatively impact your ability to sleep at night.
- Limit intake of alcohol and caffeine in the evening. These have the potential to interrupt your sleep or make it difficult to fall asleep. More than 250mg in the day can make falling asleep at night difficult.
- Plan your meals in a way that dinner is at least 2-3 hrs prior to bedtime. properly, take a walk after dinner so that the body and mind can relax and unwind.
- Turn off the lights shortly before bedtime.
- Switch off mobiles and tablets 60 minutes before bedtime. The bright light ( especially the blue-green spectrum ) from the devices can stimulate the brain and make it harder to fall asleep.
- Sometimes taking a quick shower or bath before bedtime is also relaxing and helps promote sleep.
- Listening to light relaxing music and podcasts may also help in falling asleep.
- Avoid looking at screens like the TV, laptop, or phone once in bed.
- Read a book or listen to soothing meditation sounds.
- Relax muscles and focus on steady meditative breathing.
- Keep room temperature on the cooler side if possible.
“SLEEP IS THE GOLDEN CHAIN THAT BINDS HEALTH AND OUR BODIES TOGETHER” – Thomas Dekker
Reviewed By Dr. Abhinav Singh
Dr. Abhinav Singh, board-certified in Sleep Medicine and Internal Medicine, is the Medical Director of the Indiana Sleep Center, which is accredited by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. He is also a Clinical Assistant Professor at Marian University College of Medicine in Indianapolis. Dr. Singh’s research and clinical practice focus on the entire myriad of sleep disorders, including excessive daytime sleepiness, narcolepsy, sleep apnea, chronic snoring, insomnia, and sleep education. Along with being a fellow of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, Dr. Singh is a peer reviewer for the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, Sleep Health (from the National Sleep Foundation) and the Journal of Sleep Disorders: Treatment and Care.
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