Over the years there has been much debate on sleep and how important it is for us all. Why is it that some people can have 4 hours sleep and function normally, whereas I myself need a good 8 hours to function at my best. The answer is simple, we are all unique and our bodies need different amounts of everything. What works for one person, won’t work for everyone else. So next time someone is bragging that they can get by on 4 hours sleep, don’t feel like they are superior to you. You may have other things your body is superior at, such as better skin, more focus, more muscles or a faster metabolism to name a few things.
Why is sleep so important for us? Well, let us discuss what sleep is, what it does for us and why we need it.
Sleep (or at least a physiological period of quiescence) is a highly conserved behavior that occurs in animals ranging from fruit flies to humans. This prevalence notwithstanding, why we sleep is not well understood. Since animals are particularly vulnerable while sleeping, there must be advantages that outweigh this considerable disadvantage. Shakespeare characterized sleep as “nature's soft nurse,” noting the restorative nature of sleep. From a perspective of energy conservation, one function of sleep is to replenish brain glycogen levels, which fall during the waking hours. In keeping with this idea, humans and many other animals sleep at night. Since it is generally colder at night, more energy would have to be expended to keep warm, were we nocturnally active. Furthermore, body temperature has a 24-hour cycle, reaching a minimum at night and thus reducing heat loss. As might be expected, human metabolism measured by oxygen consumption decreases during sleep .
Sleep helps your brain work properly. While you're sleeping, your brain is preparing for the next day. It's forming new pathways to help you learn and remember information. Studies show that a good night's sleep improves learning. Whether you're learning math, how to play the piano, how to perfect your golf swing, or how to drive a car, sleep helps enhance your learning and problem-solving skills. Sleep also helps you pay attention, make decisions, and be creative. Sleep plays an important role in your physical health. For example, sleep is involved in healing and repair of your heart and blood vessels. Sleep helps maintain a healthy balance of the hormones that make you feel hungry (ghrelin) or full (leptin). When you don't get enough sleep, your level of ghrelin goes up and your level of leptin goes down. This makes you feel hungrier than when you're well-rested .
Sleep also affects how your body reacts to insulin, the hormone that controls your blood glucose (sugar) level. Sleep deficiency results in a higher than normal blood sugar level, which may increase your risk for diabetes. Sleep also supports healthy growth and development. Deep sleep triggers the body to release the hormone that promotes normal growth in children and teens. This hormone also boosts muscle mass and helps repair cells and tissues in children, teens, and adults. Sleep also plays a role in puberty and fertility. Your immune system relies on sleep to stay healthy. This system defends your body against foreign or harmful substances .
Before I go through the specific advantages of sleep, I want to outline how the sleep cycle works, as it's important to know this.
While you sleep, you go through cycles of sleep states. The first state in a sleep cycle is light sleep (NREM), followed by deep sleep and a dream state referred to as REM-sleep. NREM stands for Non Rapid Eye Movement and REM stands for Rapid Eye Movement. A full sleep cycle lasts about 90 minutes and is normally repeated several times each night. Let's go through these cycles in detail :
Stage 1 NREM: This stage occurs after you have decided to sleep and your eyes are closed. During this stage—which typically lasts between 1 and 10 minutes—you are lightly asleep, and you can quickly return to being fully awake.
Stage 2 NREM: When NREM Stage 2 sleep kicks in, things get serious!
Stage 3 NREM: This sleep stage refers to the combined stages of what was previously separated into Stage 3 & 4 sleep.
Stage 4 REM: This is the final stage of a standard sleep cycle. The first Rapid Eye Movement sleep stage lasts around 10 minutes and usually happens after having been asleep at least 90 minutes.
REM sleep is also known as “paradoxical sleep.” This is because the brain waves emitted during this stage seem contradictory to sleep: Although you are sleeping, your brain waves look at lot like what can be recorded when you are fully awake. Another aspect of this paradox is the fact that even though your brain shows heightened activity, most of your muscles are paralyzed.
Now that we have seen what sleep actually is and the processes your body goes through on an average sleep cycle, let us see the many benefits of a good night's sleep :
It is clear that sleep is very important for us all. I for one love sleeping! With the weather getting cooler and the nights getting longer, there is nothing better than getting into a comfortable bed and getting some shut eye. Especially for those of us who exercise during the week (which should be all of us :-)), sleep is important for muscle recovery and growth.
A lack of sleep is more damaging to one's health then is accepted or acknowledged. Sleep seems to be missed off most diagnostics and is something which is commonly accepted as ok if one does not get enough sleep. By having a good nights sleep, we can tackle the day with a burst fullness of energy and determination.
Here are the long term effects of not getting enough sleep :
Without enough sleep, your brain and body systems won’t function normally. It can also dramatically lower your quality of life. A review of 16 studies found that sleeping for less than 6 to 8 hours a night increases the risk of early death by about 12 percent. The obvious signs of sleep deprivation are:
Stimulants like caffeine aren’t enough to override your body’s profound need for sleep. Behind the scenes, chronic sleep deprivation can interfere with your body’s internal systems and cause more than just the initial signs and symptoms listed above.
Everyone’s experienced the fatigue, short temper and lack of focus that often follow a poor night’s sleep. An occasional night without sleep makes you feel tired and irritable the next day, but it won’t harm your health. After several sleepless nights, the mental effects become more serious. Your brain will fog, making it difficult to concentrate and make decisions. You’ll start to feel down, and may fall asleep during the day. If it continues, lack of sleep can affect your overall health and make you prone to serious medical conditions, such as obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes .
So what can be done to have what I call good ‘sleep hygiene’ for a good night's sleep? There are a few quick wins that can be easily done to help ensure you get a restful night’s sleep. Here is my quick win guide:
Frequent sleep disturbances and daytime sleepiness are the most telling signs of poor sleep hygiene. In addition, if you're taking too long to fall asleep, you should consider evaluating your sleep routine and revising your bedtime habits. Just a few simple changes can make the difference between a good night’s sleep and night spent tossing and turning .
As can be seen, by having a good sleep routine, with sensible diet choices and exercise will help you have a good night sleep. When we have a good nights sleep, we make sensible eating choices the next day, have more energy and generally feel better.
If you feel you require support with your sleep issues or require general guidance on nutritional support and how to live a balanced lifestyle please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit my website by going to www.urbanplatehealth.com