Sleep And Health

Sleep and Health

You have probably heard the advice to get at least 7 hours of sleep every night. Doctors, billionaires, influencers, spiritual gurus, all seem to swear by sleep’s healing powers. But what exactly is it that sleep does for you? Well, let’s figure it out together!

Sleep stages

First, let’s learn more about how sleep works. There are two types of sleep REM and Non-REM sleep. When you just go to bed you are in your 1st stage of Non-REM sleep. It only lasts a couple minutes and is characterised by the shift from being awake to being asleep. Then comes the 2nd stage of the Non-REM sleep. It’s quite light, but your organs already start to slow down their functions and your muscles start to reax. In the 3rd stage of Non-REM sleep you are in your deep sleep; hence it is difficult to wake up from it. Physical activity of your heart, brain and other systems are at their slowest. Finally, you enter you REM sleep, approximately 90 minutes after you fall asleep. The activity of your body starts speeding up again and your eye move rapidly, however your arms and legs are paralysed. This is the stage where we have most dreams (most but not all!). This cycle of the 3 stages of Non-REM sleep followed by REM sleep repeat multiple times through the night. 

Now that we broke down sleep process let’s look at the importance of it on our daily activity

Physical health 

Sleep works as a regulator for many (if not almost all) systems of our body. Some examples could be:

– Growth and stress hormones

– Immune system

– Appetite

– Breathing

– Blood pressure

– Cardiovascular health

– Vaccination efficiency (quite an important point today)

So, what happens when you are depriving yourself of sleep? Well, it could lead to many consequences for your physical health such as:

– Risks of heart disease and stroke

– Diabetes

– Narrowed blood vessels

– Migraines

– Obesity

– Immunohealth

– Growth and development issues

Brain Activity

Sleep gives our brain time and ability to restore and improve itself. Sleep aids:

– Brain plasticity

– Memory consolidation

– Clearing interstitial (this is just a scientific word for fluid around your cells) space: during this process our brain flushes out toxins (that might lead to memory impairment) and also takes up beneficial products

Having good sleep means taking care of your brain and its activity. If you neglect sleep and opt for binging Netfilx all night (we are all guilty of it sometimes) on a regular basis you might develop:

– Memory problems

– Impaired cognitive performance 

– Slower reaction time 

– Alzheimer’s 

Mental Health

It is probably not surprising that with all its effects on brain and body sleep is also tightly connected to our mental health. Sleep is responsible for:

– Emotional regulation

– Consolidation of emotional content

– Mood regulation

– Accurate world perception

Sleep has proven to have a bidirectional correlation with mental health. This means that even though mental health issues can affect sleep, sleep too can affect our mental health. When you deny yourself a good night rest you are putting yourself in the risk of:

– Developing depression and/or anxiety

– Affecting the outcomes of mental health treatments 

– Triggering manic episode for bipolar disorder

– Reducing your ability to cope with daily irritants 

Even though there are still many questions surrounding sleep and different parts of it, there is no doubt that it’s immensely important for our health and happiness. If you want to improve your life as a whole with one simple step, maybe you could try sleeping for at least 7 hours every night.

Meanwhile, get enough sleep, stay home and stay safe!

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