So far I’ve talked about various topics related to self-development in this blog. However, I have not touched a subject of sleep! I believe that it is a crucial matter and it acts a huge role in our lives. As you all might know we spend around 1/3 of our living life sleeping, and that tells us that we all need it! But why? Let’s answer this question in today’s article and learn more about sleep, why we sleep and what happens when we don’t get enough sleep.
Most of us probably know that recommended sleeping time is around 8 hours a day. For some of us, it might be 7 hours while for others it could be as much as 9 hours. These numbers aren’t made up out of thin air, there have been many studies done on this topic. The recommended sleeping is around 8 hours is because of what is known as natural sleeping cycles.
Sleeping cycle can be described as a combination of sleeping stages that our body goes through while sleeping. Usually, sleeping cycle takes around 90 minutes to complete, and it consists of 5 stages:
Stage1: Light sleep – muscle activity slows down with occasional muscle twitching.
Stage2: Breathing pattern and heart rate slow down, with a slight increase in body temperature.
Stage3: Deep sleep – brain begins to generate slow delta waves.
Stage4: Very deep sleep – rhythmic breathing, limited muscle activity, recovery is happening all around the body.
Stage5: Rapid eye movement – brain waves speed up and dreaming occurs. Muscles relax and heart rate increases, breathing is rapid and shallow.
All these stages take up about 90 minutes, and full recovery of the body happens after 4-6 cycles, which translates to 7-9hours of sleep. As we now know why a certain amount of hours is needed, let’s find out what are the benefits of good sleep and downsides of not getting enough sleep.
The importance of sleep:
The primary purpose of sleep is restoration. Through the day our brain accumulates metabolic waste which is produced by your typical neural activities. It is a natural process, and it happens in our bodies. However, high amount of this waste can be linked to severe disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease. As our body is a perfect organism and can take care of itself, the clearance of this waste happens while we sleep. Your brain gets restored, and you wake up refreshed and with a clear mind. Not only your brain repairs while you sleep, but your whole body also replenishes. Your muscles relax, and various cellular repair works happen. Immune system replenishes itself through the night and various antioxidant actions happen which help your body to stay clean and healthy. To learn more, read this research paper.
Sleep is also important for memory consolidation. It has been discovered that during sleeping hours, various processes happen which are linked to maintaining and strengthening your long-term memory. Sleep deprivation can lower your ability to form concrete memories (facts and figures) as well as emotional memories.
Another interesting area affected by sleep is metabolic health. Studies have shown that people who sleep 5.5hours instead of 8.5hours per night, burns more energy from proteins and carbohydrates in the body, instead of burning fats. This can lead you to gain fat and lose muscle in your body. Additionally, not enough sleep can lead to insulin insensitivity, increasing the risk of diabetes and heart disease.
As you can see sleep plays a huge role in our mental and physical health. Needless to say that all of the effects, negative and positive are accumulative and you won’t feel them clearly very quickly. As we are living beings and we need some time to feel the effects. Therefore, if you wish to feel full benefits of sleep, you should try and get enough sleep all the time instead of “catching up” on sleep during weekends only.