Sleep plays a vital role in maintaining the health and well-being of an individual. Getting enough quality sleep makes you feel better, think clearer, and keep your energy up. Sleep is a biological imperative and any degree of sleepiness will impair mood and performance.
To achieve the restorative benefits of sleep, getting a full night of quality sleep is very important.
Uninterrupted sleep is best for health, because during sleep adults drift through several stages, each with its own distinct role.
In Stage 1, when people go to bed, they drift into light sleep. Their muscle activity eases and eyes move slowly.
In Stage 2, heart rate decrease and body temperature slightly drops, causing an individual to enter deep sleep.
In the 3rd stage of sleep, brain waves slow down with occasional faster bursts. This is when the brain starts to release a growth hormone that helps rebuild damaged cells. In stage 4, the brain produces slow delta waves, which further eases muscle activity. It is difficult to wake an individual from this sleep slumber.
A good night’s sleep is comprised of 3 to 4 sleep cycles. Each cycle consists of periods of deep sleep and rapid eye movement (REM) sleep which is the time of dreams. Rapid eye movement sleep usually comes about 90 to 100 minutes after falling asleep and may last up to one hour.
In adults, about 20 percent of total sleep time is spent in REM mode. REM sleep makes a very important part of quality sleep because the cycle that is in REM sleep has been shown to be very critical to the biology of sleep.
Sleep can be disrupted by a number of things. Certain medications or stimulants such as caffeine can keep people up. Distractions such as noise and electronics can prevent individuals from falling asleep.
Health Benefits of a Good Night’s Sleep
Sleep and the Immune System: Sleep is essential to maintaining the health of immune system. Studies have revealed that levels of immune-system molecules such as interleukin-1 and tumor necrosis factor rise significantly during deep sleep, decreasing the risk for breast cancer, colon cancer, heart disease and diabetes.
According to a research conducted by American scientists, sleep deprivation can increase the concentration of inflammatory markers associated with many chronic health conditions including cardiovascular problems.
Sleep and Depression: Quality sleep has been shown to regulate hormones in the blood stream including serotonin which is a neurotransmitter that helps maintain mood balance. Numerous researches have revealed that people with a deficiency of serotonin are more likely to develop depression than individuals who have normal levels.
Sleep and the Energy Levels: Getting enough sleep is important for maintaining a good energy balance and intellectual function. During sleep, your body releases hormones that help control the body’s use of energy and repair cells.
Loss of sleep has been shown to reduce energy levels, causing fatigue and tiredness as well as to impair your higher levels of reasoning, problem-solving skills and attention to detail.
Sleep and the Memory: It is believed that a combination of both SWS (slow-wave sleep) and REM (rapid eye movement) play crucial roles in the retention as well as consolidation of information you have taken throughout the day.
In an experiment that involved showing the images of objects to participants and then they were either allowed to sleep or remained awaken to see the effect of sleep deprivation on memory.
Those who rested well were able to recall what they had seen with the more clarity than their sleep-deprived counterparts.
Sleep and Cancer: A good night’s sleep has been shown to increase the level of melatonin in the blood, a hormone that both makes us sleepy and protects against different types of cancers. Melatonin appears to suppress the growth of tumors and destroys antioxidants in the blood.
Health Problems that can occur due to Sleep Deficiency
According to a survey, many people sleep less than six hours a night, which increases their risk for developing certain medical problems.
The damage from sleep deficiency, or what some experts call “sleep debt” which is the difference between the amount of sleep an individual should be getting and the amount an individual actually gets, can put people at risk for heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, and diabetes.
Studies have revealed that short term “sleep debt” can lead to a foggy brain, worsened vision, and trouble remembering whereas long term “sleep debt” kills sex drive, hurts cognitive processes, ages skin, and impairs judgment.
Physiological studies suggest that sleep deficiency may put the body into a state of high alert, elevating the levels of stress hormones and driving up blood pressure, increasing the likelihood of contracting certain cardiovascular ailments.
Recent researches have revealed that sleep deprivation promotes weight gain by affecting the way the human body processes and stores carbohydrates and by disrupting normal levels of leptin and ghrelin, hormones that regulate appetite.
Sleep has also been shown to affect how the body reacts to insulin, the hormone that controls serum glucose level. Sleep deficiency may result in a higher than normal blood glucose levels, which may increase risk for type-2 diabetes.
Recent studies have shown that sleep deficiency can affect the efficiency of vaccinations. Well-rested people who receive the vaccine develop stronger protection against a disease than people who do not sleep well.
The solution for all these problems is simple, get more high quality sleep.