On average we spend 36% of our time sleeping. So by the time we reach 90, we would have slept for 32 years! What does this tell us? That sleep is essential to our well being. But for most, we don’t give it a second thought, and probably aren’t even aware of its importance. Let’s fix this now.
What happens while we sleep
Sleep is incredibly important to our biology, and neuroscientists explain why sleep matters. To make it simple, imagine sleep is a vacuum cleaner for your body. Our brain and body need daily sleep for:
- Sleep lowers metabolic rate and energy consumption
- The body replaces chemicals, repairs muscles, tissues and aging or dead cells
- Formation of long-term memories and learning
There are several sleep stages responsible for each above option. Sleep poorly and it can lead to many dysfunctions which we’ll explain later.
Why sleep is important
If you don’t sleep, you don’t fly. On these days, much of our society is desperately sleep-deprived. To give you an idea of what’s happening during prolonged sleep deprivation, here’s the situation you may find familiar:
- Shift work. Our body clock doesn’t shift to working at night. When the shift worker is going home in the day, the body clock is saying “Wake up.” The quality of sleep and productivity is usually inferior
- Bad habits. Drugs, stimulants, alcohol – your brain craves for these to wake up. They, of course, keep you awake for some time but neither stimulators nor alcohol provides sleep. They harm some of the neural processing that’s going on during memory consolidation, and you have a higher sleep apnea risk.
- Weight gain. Sleeping 5 hours or less every night, makes you 50% likely to be obese. If you’re trying to lose weight, getting quality sleep is important.
- Stress. Tired people are massively stressed. If you’re acutely stressed, not a great problem, but sustained stress associated with sleep loss that’s the problem.
Poor sleep and disease
So now you know: rest is a right, not a privilege. For more evidence, let’s figure out which conditions can cause poor sleep.
- Hypertension. During sleep, our cardiovascular system gets a break. So the connection between poor sleep and high blood pressure is obvious.
- Depression. Sleep deprivation, poor sleep, and depression stand very close. Mental health and sleep are not simply associated but physically linked within the brain.
- Sleep apnea. The consequences of sleep deprivation are the causes of sleep apnea. If you sleep less, you put yourself very close to sleep disorders and productivity reduction.
- Schizophrenia. Didn’t expect that? The truth is individuals with schizophrenia, much of the time, are awake during the night phase and asleep during the day.
We’re not here to scare, but make you aware of the problems and be able to detect it early. So, keep an eye on your health and take care of your sleep.