Just how important is sleep? Although some people may not think sleep is important, it is apparent that our bodies do require a certain amount of sleep each day and without sleep we run into a lot of health problems. Although most people consider eight hours of sleep to be average, according to the Sleep Foundation, the exact amount of sleep varies from one adult to another.
Why do we need to sleep?
Sleep is needed just as much as food and water. Your body can rest when it’s still awake but this is different than the rest and refreshing you receive when you are actually sleeping. Studies have shown that the body uses sleep as a time to restore itself and replenish its energy. When you sleep the brain continues to function. A lack of sleep affects the overall health of the mind and the body just as would a lack of food.
How much sleep is enough?
The amount of sleep a person needs will vary according to age. Babies, of course, require quite a bit of sleep, up to 16 hours or more in a 24-hour period. Surprisingly, teenagers, although they may not realize it, still need about nine hours of sleep a day. Adults can function with seven to eight hours of sleep. This remains true for the elderly, although seniors tend to sleep less hours for various reasons. According to the Institute on Aging, elderly persons often do not get enough sleep because they not only have trouble falling asleep but also staying asleep.
Are you sleep deprived?
Some people suffer from chronic sleep deprivation and interestingly, the missing hours of sleep can’t be recovered as you might think. Sleep deprivation is defined by Web MD as ” a sufficient lack of restorative sleep over a cumulative period so as to cause physical or psychiatric symptoms and affect routine performances of tasks.” Even one less hour of sleep daily can result in noticeable difference in your functioning ability, according to Help Guide.
Sleep deprivation makes a person very sluggish and grossly decreases the ability to react quickly and make sound decisions. You may have noticed yourself that your ability to make sounds decisions is poor during times you are sleep deprived. Most people know when they are sleep deprived because they feel sluggish and mentally unclear during the day. Many people are fearful of being late to work or other appointment and habitually use an alarm clock so as not to oversleep. In these cases they are also sleep deprived because their sleep is actually broken. They find it hard to get out of bed and literally drag through the day because they are not rested. Yawning and inattentiveness in meetings at work is not necessarily because the speaker is boring; it’s because they haven’t had enough sleep. Daytime napping and sleeping in on the weekend are also signs of sleep deprivation.
While most people may not consider sleep deprivation to be a health problem, it actually does have an adverse impact on your health and can even increase your risk for heart disease, obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes. In an online article by Harvard Medical School, it was revealed that certain hormones in the body are processed and regulated as we sleep. Insufficient sleep upsets the balance of these hormones, thus leading to disease. Here are but a few of the symptoms that may occur when you are sleep deprived:
Lack of motivation
Feelings of tiredness or fatigue
Tendency to catch more colds
Another problem that can occur when you are sleep deprived, is a condition known as micro sleep. Persons who experience micro sleep have brief, unplanned period of sleep during a time when they are trying to stay awake. Usually the head snaps or the person is suddenly seen staring blankly ahead. These minute lapses in consciousness are unknown to the person. These periods, according to the Sleep Foundation, can last anywhere from about two to twenty seconds. The person may come out of a micro sleep, suddenly finding that they have run through a stop sign or awaken not remembering where they have just driven.
Micro sleep has several causes but certainly one of the main causes of it lack of sleep. It is especially dangerous if you drive a vehicle or operate heavy machinery. If you know you have not been getting adequate sleep, realize that these periods of micro sleep can and do occur.
Ways to prevent sleep deprivation
People deal with sleep deprivation in different ways, but not always in healthy ways. Some people feel inclined to drink coffee or other caffeinated beverages or take other stimulants throughout the day in an attempt to combat their sleepiness.. However, these substances are not a cure for the problem. Behavioral and lifestyle changes are the best things that that help you overcome sleep deprivation. Here are some things you can do to overcome this problem:
– Determine to get an adequate amount of sleep
The best thing to do to maintain your health is to get an adequate amount of sleep every night. Studies have shown that if a person misses sleep for two days they will have marked difficulty with concentrating. After three days of losing sleep a person can actually being to hallucinate. Sleep obviously, plays an important role in our lives.
– Sleep on a regular schedule
Mayour daytime routine so this can happen and you can go to bed early enough to sleep well.
– Don’t go to bed with a full stomach
Eating a heavy meal before lying can prevent you from getting sufficient. This is because your body is trying to digest the food when you should be resting. This conflict within your system will lead to indigestion and sleeplessness. Also avoid drinking alcoholic beverages before you sleep because drinking cal actually disrupt your sleep.
– Eliminate whatever will interrupt your sleep
The temperature of your room, bedding, loud noises or other distractions can play a role in preventing you from getting a good night’s sleep. Be sure to make the appropriate adjustments so that you can get your rest. In dry climates you may need to add a humidifier to keep moisture in the room.
– Realize the importance of sleep
Many people minimize the importance of sleep. They do not realize that decreasing the amount of sleep to accommodate work schedules or personal life activities can actually create health problems and be dangerous.
In conclusion, adequate sleep is something you need daily just as much as you need food. If you are not getting the proper amount of sleep, realize that this can seriously affect your health. Plan to make changes in your schedule that will enable you to awaken naturally so you are more alert and refreshed during the day.
National Institute on Aging: “Sleep and Aging”
Help Guide: “How much sleep do you need?”
Harvard Education: “Why do we sleep anyway?”
Sleep Foundation: “How much sleep do we really need?”