Importance of sleep

Are you sleeping enough? Do you know what happens when you sleep and what happens when you don’t? Do you know that the lack of proper sleep will increase your stress levels and leads to hazardous situations?

Few years back an incident took place, where a CEO passed away due to intense stress levels just because of lack of sleep!

Yes, Sleep plays a vital role in maintaining good health and well-being throughout your life. Getting enough quality sleep at the right time can help protect your mental health, physical health, quality of life, and ensure your safety. The way you feel while you’re awake depends on how you sleep.

For sleep to be restorative, we need several “complete sleep cycles” every night. Let’s read on to understand what sleep cycles are.

Sleep and its Cycles:

Sleep usually occurs in two Cycles –

1.NREM (Non rapid eye movement)

2.REM (rapid eye movement)

First comes Non REM sleep, followed by a shorter period of REM sleep, and then the cycle starts over again. Dreams typically happen during REM sleep.

There are three stages of Non REM sleep:

Stage 1: Your eyes are closed, but it’s easy to wake you up. This phase may last for 5 to 10 minutes.

Stage 2: You are in light sleep. Your heart rate slows and your body temperature drops. Your body is getting ready for deep sleep.

Stage 3: This is the deep sleep stage. It’s harder to raise you during this stage. During the deep stages of NREM sleep, the body repairs and regrows tissues, builds bone and muscle, and strengthens the immune system. As you get older, you sleep more lightly and get less deep sleep. Aging is also linked to shorter time spans of sleep, although studies show you still need as much sleep as when you were younger.

REM sleep: REM sleep happens 90 minutes after you fall asleep. You can have intense dreams during REM sleep, since your brain is more active. Babies can spend up to 50% of their sleep in the REM stage, compared to only about 20% for adults.


Function of sleep:

To understand better we can relate Sleep with Hunger. Hunger is a protective mechanism that has evolved to ensure that we consume the nutrients our bodies require to grow, repair tissues, and function properly. Just as eating relieves hunger and ensures that we obtain the nutrients we need, sleeping relieves sleepiness and ensures that we obtain the sleep we need.

What happens when we sleep and why is it important:

We often hear it said that our muscles get damaged when we work out and grow when we sleep. This is completely true. In fact there are many things happen when we sleep. According to restorative theory many of the major restorative functions in our body like muscle growth, tissue repair, protein synthesis, and the release of growth hormones occur mostly during sleep.

Why Do We Sleep:

There are many reactions which takes place while we are awake. As a result, the neurons in the brain produce adenosine, a by-product of the cells activities. The buildup of adenosine in the brain is thought to be one factor that leads to the perception of being tired. Scientists think that this buildup of adenosine during wakefulness may promote the “drive to sleep.” As long as we are awake, adenosine accumulates and remains high. During sleep, the body has a chance to clear adenosine from the system, and, as a result, we feel more alert when we are awake after a good sleep.

The other reason is melatonin, It is a naturally occurring hormone that is secreted at night by the pineal gland in the brain to induce and maintain sleep. People who are sleep deprived use melatonin supplements to aid sleep.

The link between food and sleep

The type of food you have can either make you drowsy, or active. Let’s bust the science behind it.

Proteins from the food we eat are the building blocks of tryptophan, an essential amino acid in your body. Carbohydrates make tryptophan more available to the brain, which is why carb laden meals can make you feel drowsy. Hence, the best bedtime snack is one that contains both a carbohydrate and protein, such as cereal with milk, peanut butter on toast, or cheese & crackers and chicken biryani is no exception.

What makes us Active?

Most of us are well aware of this beverage CAFFEINE. And most of us use it as a pre-workout. What’s there in caffeine and what does it do?

Caffeine is a stimulant that works by blocking the action of hormones (adenosine) in the brain that makes us feel sleepy. Strong dose of caffeine can stimulate the mind for a short time, and then cause an alertness crash as the effect wears off. Be careful not to consume caffeine too close to bedtime as its effect may persist for several hours.

Poor Sleep and its complications

Lack of sleep can take a toll on nearly every part of your life. Research links sleep deprivation to car accidents, relationship troubles, poor job performance, job-related injuries, memory problems, and mood disorders. Recent studies also suggest sleep disorders may contribute to heart disease, obesity, and diabetes.

Insomnia: It’s normal to have trouble sleeping once in a while, but when the problem lingers night after night, you have insomnia. Insomnia is the most common sleep disorder in the U.S., affecting a third of adults at some point in their lives. Insomnia is related to bad habits before bed. When you drink coffee in the afternoon or evening, when you smoke or eat heavy foods at night, when you go to bed at a different time each night, or you fall asleep with the television on, it can cause Insomnia. Mental health problems such as depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder can also cause insomnia.

Both men and women tend to have sleep problems after age 65. And shift workers and frequent flyers can get a circadian rhythm disorder. This means there is a hit on their internal body clock.

Sleep Walking (somnambulism): Have you ever seen a person walk around with eyes open with a glassy stare and when you question him, he’ll be slow to respond or not respond at all. Don’t think he is influenced by any ghost but yes this is called sleepwalking. It is a behavioral disorder that originates during deep sleep and results in walking or performing other complex behaviors while asleep. It is much more common in children than adults, and is more likely to occur if a person is sleep deprived. According to the National Sleep Foundation 2004 Sleep in America Poll, 1% of pre-school children and 2% of school-aged children walk in their sleep at least a few nights per week.

The other complications of poor sleep include depression, heart rhythm problems, fever, heartburn, night-time asthma, night-time seizures, obstructive sleep apnea (a condition in which you briefly stop breathing during sleep), restless leg syndrome, psychiatric disorders, for example, post-traumatic stress disorder, and panic attacks. Sleep issues have also been shown to cause dissociative states, such as multiple personality disorder.

Normal Sleep Requirements:

  • 12-15 hours for infants
  • 11-14 hours for toddlers (ages 1-3)
  • 10-13 hours for pre-schoolers (ages 3-5)
  • 9-11 hours for schoolchildren (ages 6-13)
  • 8-10 hours for teens (ages 14-17)
  • 7-8 hours for adults.

So how to get a pleasant sleep:

If you have a problem sleeping, following these tips can help you better:

  1. Do exercise regularly.
  2. Make your bedroom dark and cool.
  3. Turn off your gadgets before you sleep or at least stay away from them.
  4. Avoid stimulants like coffee or chocolates after 3 PM.
  5. Go to bed with the best possible meal and don’t eat too much before bed.
  6. Try going to bed at same time every day.
  7. Don’t take more water before bed.


The takeaway:

Sleep is not an indulgence. It is as necessary a body function as is breathing, or eating – it helps you stay alive. Therefore, it is important to respect your body clock, and follow the golden rules of sleep to enjoy its lasting benefits!


Article Credits – Dilip Kumar Karanam