Sleep is a basic physiological need that is essential for life. It is incredibly important for wellbeing throughout your life. It constitutes roughly 36% of your health and this is a huge degree of importance. The human body as we know requires 7-9 hours of sleep. But do we sleep that much? Research says no. Most people sleep lesser on weeknights as compared to weekends. This has caused multiple issues with human lives. Getting quality sleep has an impact on quality of life, mental health, physical well-being, and personal safety.
Why is Sleep Important?
Sleep allows our body to do multiple vital tasks when we drift off to sleep:
- Recharge the heart
- Ensure the cardiovascular system is well functioning
- Boost immune system
- Recover from day to day activities
- Heal damaged cells
- Emotional well-being maintenance
- Improves concentration and productivity
- Reduces inflammation
What happens when you Sleep?
When we sleep, our body gets a rest. As per a report by the National Institutes of Health, this does the following when we sleep:
- Decreasing blood pressure
- Conserving energy
- Maintains body temperature
During sleep, a brain remains active and restores daytime mental functioning and memory. When we sleep, we essentially pass through 5 stages known as rapid eye movement (REM) sleep.
In this, sleep plays a vital role in:
- Controlling metabolism
- Regulating appetite and controlling blood glucose levels
- Keeping blood vessels healthy
- Repairing tissues and stimulates growth
How much of Sleep is required?
The duration of sleep varies during your lifetime. It also varies from time to time. As per the National Sleep Foundation, the numbers are as below.
|Age||The recommended amount of Sleep|
|Infants from 4-12 months||12-16 hours a day including naps|
|Children from 1-2 years||11-14 hours a day with naps|
|Children aged 3-5 years||10-13 hours a day with naps|
|Children aged 6-13 years||9-11 hours a day|
|Teens aged 14-18 years||8-10 hours a day|
|Adults ages 18-64 years||7-9 hours a day|
|Adults aged 65+||7-8 hours a day|
What happens when Sleep doesn’t suffice?
When sleep is not enough, one faces a sleep loss situation. This adds up to create what we call a “Sleep Debt”. A simple example is if you lose 1 hour of sleep each night, you will have a sleep debt of 7 hours after a week. Lack of sleep does not cause immediate problems, it surmounts to greater effects with time. One is at an increased risk for a chronic health problem:
- Morning headaches
- Tiredness and lethargy
- Excessive daytime sleepiness
- Anxiety and depression
- Relationship problems
- Mood swings
- Lack of sex drive
- Increased risk of drug dependence or alcohol
- Irritation and anger
- Build up of toxins
- Elevated stress
- Memory loss
The effects of lack of sleep can thus be both mental and physical. It affects all age groups and plays out differently on everyone.
Tips to Improve Sleep
With sufficient sleep, one is more productive and happier. To improve your sleep habits, you can use the following strategies:
- Have a set routine. That is wake up and go to bed at the same time every day.
- Avoid strenuous exercise an hour before sleep.
- Avoid heavy meals within a couple a hours before bedtime.
- Be physically active and spend time outdoors
- Keep your sleep area clean and quiet
- Avoid nicotine and alcohol as they can interfere with sleep
- Try to meditate for a while before you sleep
It is time we understand how vital sleep is and learn to give it importance. For most daytime activities, we cut on sleep. Sleeping is no waste of time. It is vital, holistic practice essential for rejuvenating your systems and replenishing your body. It makes you toxin-free, less irritated and start your day with a bang like you should. Being sleep deprived impairs a lot of how the body functions. Proper sleep coupled with good exercise and the right food is thus primary for a healthy body.