Sleep plays an essential role in your health and wellbeing. Getting enough of good and quality sleep has many benefits. These include protecting your physical and mental health, quality of life and personal safety.
A good night’s sleep is incredibly important for your health. In fact, it’s just as important as eating healthy and exercising. Choose the best mattress to experience the quality sleep.
People are now sleeping less than they did in the past. Sleep quality has decreased as well. Many get less than six hours of sleep per night.
This can have a wide range of health consequences that range from an increased risk of road accidents to weight gain, chronic diseases and a reduced sex drive.
What happens when we sleep?
When we sleep, our bodies rest, conserving energy and decreasing blood pressure. There is also a significant decrease in our heart rates, breathing and body temperature.
At the same time, our brains remain active while laying down our memories. They also restore daytime mental functioning and carry out processes that lead to physical growth.
How much sleep do you need?
Sleep requirements vary from person to person. How much sleep you need will vary depending on your age, lifestyle and health.
Everyone’s individual sleep needs vary. In general, most healthy adults are built for 16 hours of wakefulness and need an average of eight hours of sleep a night.
However, some individuals are able to function without sleepiness or drowsiness after as little as six hours of sleep. Others can’t perform at their peak unless they’ve slept ten hours.
Contrary to common myth, the need for sleep doesn’t decline with age but the ability to sleep for six to eight hours at one time may be reduced.
When determining your personal sleep needs, it’s important to assess where you fall on the sleep spectrum. Also, examine what other factors are affecting the quality and quantity of sleep you need. This could be your job or daily routine.
In general, the National Institute of Health suggests the following sleep recommendations by age group:
- For newborns, the recommended sleep per night is 16-18 hours
- For school-aged children, they should sleep for at least 10 hours
- Adults should sleep for 9 hours
The importance of a good night’s sleep
It’s easy to think about sleep as a time when your body and brain temporarily shut off.
The truth is that during rest, your brain is hard at work overseeing a wide variety of biological upkeep and preparing for the next day.
Adequate sleep is necessary to:
- Fight Infection. Sleep is your body’s mechanism to ward off infection. When you don’t get enough, your immune system is weaker, making you more susceptible to illness.
- During sleep, your body repairs the damage caused by stress, ultraviolet rays and other harmful exposure, as well as muscle injuries and other traumas.
- Boost Memory. Sleeping is the most important time to shape memories and make the connections between events, feelings and experiences. In fact, sleep is a requirement to form new learning and memory pathways in the brain.
- Stay Alert. Good sleep allows your mind to regain focus and tackle those tricky mental challenges. It can also stimulate creativity.
- Be Active. Energy levels after healthy sleep are higher and your mental awareness is more acute. Good sleep is also tied to improved athletic performance, including greater speed, agility and reflexes.
What happens if we don’t get enough sleep?
When you don’t get enough sleep over time, you lose out on the key benefits of sleep. We also become more vulnerable to a number of short and long-term health risks.
If you aren’t getting enough sleep regularly, your sleep loss adds up. The total sleep lost is called your sleep debt.
For example, if you lose 2 hours of sleep each night, you’ll have a sleep debt of 14 hours after a week.
The harm caused by not getting enough sleep can be immediate such as in having an accident due to not being able to focus and respond quickly.
Other effects can take years to develop, such as an increased risk of developing a chronic health problem.
Lack of good sleep can lead to:
- poor memory and difficulty focusing
- anxiety and depression
- making mistakes at work, including causing accidents
- relationship problems
- excessive daytime sleepiness, tiredness and lethargy
- morning headaches
- chronic health problems such as obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease
- an increased risk of alcohol and drug dependence
- having a car accident
- Lack of sex drive.
How to get a good night’s sleep
According to sleep researchers, a night’s sleep is divided into five continually shifting stages, defined by types of brain waves that reflect either lighter or deeper sleep.
Towards morning, there is an increase in rapid eye movement or REM sleep. This is when the muscles are relaxed. Dreaming occurs and recent memories may be consolidated in the brain.
There are techniques to combat common sleep problems:
- Avoid alcohol and heavy meals before sleep
- Get regular exercise
- Minimize noise, light and excessively hot and cold temperatures where you sleep
- Develop a regular bed time and go to bed at the same time each night
- Keep a regular sleep/wake schedule
- Don’t drink or eat caffeine four to six hours before bed and minimize daytime use
- Don’t smoke, especially near bedtime or if you awake in the night
- Try and wake up without an alarm clock
- Attempt to go to bed earlier every night for certain period; this will ensure that you’re getting enough sleep
Along with nutrition and exercise, good sleep is one of the pillars of health. Sleep deprivation may reduce your social skills and ability to recognize people’s emotional expressions.
In young people, lack of quality sleep may have a direct effect on their health, development, behavior and ability to socialize and get along with their peers.
To restore your sleep balance, you need at least two nights in a row of unrestricted good quality sleep. Studies show that making up for sleep on the weekends by sleeping in or napping only partially erases the deficits of not sleeping well the previous week.