Most of us get up early during the week whilst looking forward to a weekend lay in – but how important is sleep to you overall health? Science does not currently know for sure why we sleep, but researches have come up with some reasons as to what happens when unconsciousness takes over.
You may know sleep to be a period of the mind and body shutting down, but this isn’t the case; sleep serves as an active period in which a lot of important processing and revitalisation takes place.
Stage one – the first stage of sleep is the period between wakefulness and rest. Many people who experience this stage of sleep often feel like they haven’t slept at all; it’s easy to be awoken from this stage and as it’s such a ‘light’ sleep; not much body rejuvenation is able to take place during the slumber.
Stage two – entering stage two of the sleep cycle usually lasts around 20 minutes and it proves to become harder to wake up for this rest. Slowing of the heart rate and a decrease in body temperature usually takes place during this phase; this is because the body is getting prepared for deep sleep. A study has shown that the majority of the public spend 45% of the total sleep duration in this stage of ‘light’ sleep.
NREM Stage three – this stage, known as ‘delta sleep’, typically start between 30 – 45minutes after falling asleep. It’s proven that the majority of people will sleep through most sleep disturbances during this stage; improving noises and movements. During this phase; electroencephalograms (brain activities) show – the brain waves slow down and become larger, allowing a deeper sleep to occur.
REM Stage four – this ‘deeper sleep’ is the final stage of a regular sleep cycle. ‘REM’ stands for rapid eye movement sleep and this is exactly what occurs during this period. During this phase of rest, heart and respiration rates increase and their rhythms occasionally become irregular.
Increase in productivity and concentration
The act of sleep is important for numerous brain functions to work correctly, including; cognition, productivity, performance and concentration. Sleep deprivation causes these functions to be negatively affected. Studies suggest that quality sleep can enhance memory and improve problem solving skills. Individuals who are prone to lack of sleep are more likely to be affected by impaired brain function.
Fully functioning immune system
Various parts of our immune systems assist in controlling our sleep and the sleep quality we get determines how well our immune systems function. Research suggests that sleep deprivation can trigger an immune system response in the body that increases inflammation, and as a result can cause tissue damage. Because of these factors, it’s no secret that sleep quality and immune systems are linked to health; our immune systems release disease-fighting substances whilst we are asleep. Our bodies need these chemicals, hormones and proteins in order to fight off infection and disease. Would you like to know additional ways to keep your immune system in tip-top condition?
Read our ‘7 ways to boost your immune system’ post.
Diet & maintaining a healthy weight
You’d think that sleeping more and therefore being less active would put a hold on weight loss? This isn’t the case; it’s proven that longer sleeping hours can in fact speed up the weight loss process. This is achieved through a variety of factors, including; no late night snacking, calories being burnt during sleep, encouraging portion control, an increase in brain function and more sleep allows you less time to be hungry! Early nights now seem to be even more appealing…
Avoid mental and physical illnesses
Studies and past research proves that sleep deprivation is linked to depression, anxiety and physical conditions such as; heart disease and diabetes. It’s also known that poor sleeping habits are strongly linked to adverse effects on blood sugar in the general population. It’s also apparent that lack of sleep can have poor effects on your central nervous system, as sleep is necessary to keep it functioning properly. Sleep deprivation is known to disrupt the way your brain sends information throughout the body.
The recommended amount of sleep for adults, per night, is seven to nine hours; however, some people may be able to cope with six. For people over the age of 65; between seven and eight hours is advised. Of course, it’s not easy for us all to get this amount of sleep, especially taking into account work, hobbies and down-time – so apart from the obvious, how can we tell if we’re getting enough rest?
Memory and thinking problems
Disorientation and paranoia
Overwhelming feeling of fatigue
Bodily aches and pains
Insomnia, anxiety, depression
It’s apparent that sleep is overly important for your health, but you aren’t to know what’s around the corner in terms of illnesses that are out of your control. Acquiring health insurance cover is a great way to ensure you’re going to receive the best care, if anything negatively affects your health.
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