Sleep & Health: What’s the connection
Sleep is a natural process and is as essential for achieving Good Health as eating food and drinking water. Human beings spend and dedicate about one-thirds of their life sleeping but there are two important aspects to sleep – one, the quality of sleep and second, quantity or number of hours of sleep.
What happens physiologically when we sleep?
It is common knowledge that when we sleep our brain is still active and working. Though scientists for years have tried to understand the complex process associated with sleep, generically speaking sleep has two components to it – NREM or non-rapid eye movement and REM or rapid eye movement. 75% of the human sleep is the non-rapid type when the sleep is the deepest and is characterized by electrical patterns inside the brain. It is during this phase of our sleep that our temporary and short-range memories are pushed into lasting storage. This is also the time when the growth hormones of the body that are responsible for cell repair and reproduction are released to the maximum by the brain.
REM sleep is characterized by vibrant and emotional dreams though the NREM phase is also categorized by dreams but those are more concept-based. It is during this phase that the human mind processes the memories and stresses and collates it for future use. However, science still has not been able to prove as to what happens during the REM stage with different theories proposed though none of them have been validated yet.
It has been proven scientifically that lack of proper sleep can lead to plenty of health problems and it is important to have a good sleep pattern for the overall well-being of an individual. When sleep is broken intermittently due to numerous reasons then the mind is unable to process many vital requirements of the body causing health issues to the person concerned and can also cause serious repercussions in the long run.
Importance of Quality Sleep:
Here are the generic benefits of a good quality sleep-
- It is proven that when we sleep the immune system of the body is enhanced and is boosted.
- It is only while we sleep that our body can rest amply and able to recover from the toil of the day.
- The damaged cells of the body are repaired during this phase.
- A good quality sleep also helps rejuvenate the heart and other vital organs of the body so that it is prepared for tasks of the next day.
Sleep & Well-being:
- A good night’s sleep helps in improving the concentration and memory skills in kids and adults.
- With increased focus people can problem-solve and think critically better thereby improving their productivity and performance.
- It has also been proven that people who suffer from sleep related problems tend to eat more causing them to gain unwanted calories that can induce weight gain issues in the human body. This is because the hormones that control appetite slacks down when proper sleep is not achieved. In fact, it has been noted in a study that children who do not sleep for the required duration of time are 80% more likely to develop obesity related problems.
- Extensive studies have also proved that poor sleepers tend to develop heart diseases early on in life – people who get at least 8 hours of sleep daily are at lesser risk of a heart problem like heart attacks or strokes compared to people who sleep less than this on a routine basis.
- A poor sleeper is more likely to develop blood sugar related problems especially ones who sleep less than 6 hours every night is at risk of Type 2 diabetes.
- Lack of proper sleep has also been found to affect the emotional maturity and sociability of individuals. These are prone to get angry more and be less happy and content with life. Therefore, lack of sleep has also been linked to depressions. Studies have proved that 90% of people who are suffering from depression have poor quality of sleep.
- Poor sleepers are also more likely to suffer from inflammation of the digestive tract and lower levels of immunity. Such people are more prone to suffer from common cold too.
- A good sleep is the way to holistic health.
Tips for a Good Sleep:
Prepare Yourself for a good sleep:
- A schedule with specific times for waking up and sleep every day is a great start to getting into a good sleep routine.
- Daily physical exercise is highly recommended to improve the quality of one’s sleep.
- Avoid caffeine, alcohol, heavy meals and cigarettes before going to sleep.
- Warm bath: Taking a warm bath before bedtme is very soothing, helps calm down our body and prepares us well for a good night’s sleep.
- Reading: Reading at bedtime is a great way to stay engaged while you tire yourself to sleep.
Prepare the Environment:
Lighting: A complete black-out is something which is the best for producing the sleep hormone melatonin and helps in the process of falling asleep naturally.
Silence: A silent room, a comfortable bed according your preferences is a fundamental to good sleep. Use of Ear plugs for noise cancellation is also a preferred choice for a lot of people thgese days.
Temperatures: Maintain a pleasant and cool temperatres for a good sleep in the room at night. A temperature between 17 to 22 degrees is the recommended by Sleep.org
Interactions: Make sleep time relaxed so that sleep is induced naturally. Avoid any discussions or arguements that make you feel stressed or anxious. However, if you do feel stressed or anxious with life’s challenges, making journaling a habit is a great tool to vent out feelings and make peace with your own self. Spending a quiet time with your loved ones is also very calming and has benefits to a good sleep.
Screens: A lot has been said about avoiding screens atleast 2 hours before bedtime for a good quality sleep. Read about how screens make us vulnerable to bad quality sleep and hence compromised health.
Essential Oils Aroma: Try burning your favourite esential oil in your room. It not only preapres the room but also soothes your mind and calm your senses. Use an essential oils burner with your favourite essential oil.
The hours of sleep required by individuals largely varies depending upon the age of the individual.
- New-born babies need to sleep for good 16 to 18 hours.
- From the age group of 1 to about 5 years, kids need to sleep anywhere between 11 – 13 hours a day.
- School going children in the age group of 6 – 13 years are advised sleep for 9 – 11 hours daily on an average.
- Teenagers in the age group of 14 to 17 years need to sleep for at least 8 -10 hours every night.
- Adult males and females need 7 to 9 hours of sleep every day.
- Aged people beyond the age of 60 years need at least 7 hours even though their sleep is interrupted by frequent awakenings.