Importance of Sleep
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Importance of Sleep

Post by Dr. Siddharth Chowdhury on Sunday, October 30, 2022

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Adults aged 18 to 60 years are advised to sleep for at least 7 hours every night; otherwise, they risk becoming sleep deprived. Ignoring the need of sleep might harm your overall health. Your body will benefit from sleep if you make it a priority.

While you sleep, your body creates proteins known as cytokines, which have immune-boosting properties and act as fuel for your white blood cells. Sleep deprivation reduces cytokine synthesis and makes you more susceptible to germs and viruses.

Learn why you need to obtain a good night's sleep to find your incentive to prioritise sleep.


Sleep reduces stress

Sleep is an excellent stress reducer. It increases focus, emotional regulation, and judgement and decision-making. A lack of sleep impairs not just our mental clarity but also our capacity to deal with stressful events. This is due, in part, to the effects of chronically elevated cortisol levels.

Cortisol levels rise when we receive poor quality sleep or don't get enough sleep. High cortisol levels are helpful in the short term because they increase alertness and vigilance while also increasing heart rate and blood pressure, but they can promote systemic inflammation and alter our hormonal balance over time. Cortisol levels often decline in the evening hours as part of the body's natural preparation for sleep. When we don't get enough sleep, cortisol levels rise and interfere with the release of melatonin, a hormone that regulates our sleep-wake cycles. Too little sleep has an effect on the rapid eye movement (REM) stage of sleep, which affects our emotional and memory processing. Loss of the restorative advantages of REM sleep has a direct influence on our mood, making us more irritable and agitated.


Sleep may prevent illnesses

Sleep deprivation may have serious health consequences and has been related to chronic illnesses such as diabetes and heart disease, as well as obesity.

Sleep deprivation makes you more susceptible to sickness since your immune system is underperforming. According to one research, persons who get fewer than 7 hours of sleep every night are roughly three times more likely to catch a cold than their well-rested co-workers.

The sneaky aspect of sleep deprivation is that you typically don't notice its harmful consequences until it's too late. The harm worsens when you miss more and larger amounts of sleep and go through the stages of sleep deprivation. Organs, like your brain, require rest to replenish and eliminate waste, and they do so while the body as a whole sleeps.


Sleep is restorative

Sleeping allows your body to heal and rebuild. The body is able to eliminate waste from the lymphatic system during this period, which improves the immune system. Many vital processes take place when you sleep, including:

  • Muscle repair
  • Protein synthesis
  • Tissue growth
  • Hormone release


Sleep helps you maintain a healthy body weight

When you don't get enough sleep, your body changes the chemicals that control your hunger and appetite. Among these neurotransmistters are:

  • Leptin: This hormone reduces hunger and stimulates the body's energy expenditure.
  • Ghrelin: This hormone stimulates appetite.

When you don't get enough sleep, both these neurotransmitters are thrown off—leptin drops and ghrelin rises.

To make matters worse, a new study discovered that sleep deprivation might stimulate the endocannabinoid (eCB) system in our brain, which increases hunger and appetite. Activating the eCB reward system increases your desire for junk food.

When you are weary, you also become more inclined to make poor lifestyle choices. People frequently consume sugary beverages to remain awake, order takeaway instead of cooking, or avoid exercising. Consuming empty calories or avoiding exercise may be OK on occasion, but if persistent weariness develops, it can cause an increase in weight or the rise of obesity or diabetes in time.


Sleep improves your memory

The relationship between sleep and memory processing is widely understood. Sleep allows the mind to digest all of the inputs that we have taken in while awake, and it causes changes in the brain that strengthen neuronal connections, allowing us to develop memories. These memories may be recalled later via a process known as recall, which is why teachers stress the necessity of getting a good night's sleep before taking a test.

It's also worth noting that, while the connection between sleep, learning, and memory is complex, we've all encountered the effect that a lack of sleeping could have on our concentration and capacity to learn efficiently, so getting a good night's sleep is important not only to maximise our capacity to acquire new knowledge but also to recall and share that information later.

Sleep is also necessary for memory consolidation, which is the process of consolidating our memories. Memory consolidation is necessary for absorbing new knowledge. Numerous studies have found that sleep aids this process through a variety of electrophysiological, neurochemical, and genetic pathways that occur during the slow-wave sleep period of sleep. You don't need to sleep for a long period to get the benefits of better memory. We enter slow-wave sleep quite rapidly after falling asleep, so even a little nap can aid memory.


Sleep is important for your mental health

Lack of sleep appears to contribute to the development of new mental health issues as well as the maintenance of existing ones, although the extent of its influence is difficult to measure and may varies between mental health diseases.

Sleep issues are particularly frequent in those suffering from mental illnesses. In reality, sleep disruption is widely recognised as both a symptom and a result of mental health illnesses, however sleep deprivation is rarely addressed as the cause of mental health issues.

Insomnia, or persistent trouble falling or staying asleep, is the most prevalent sleep disorder connected with poor mental health. Insomnia has been shown to exacerbate the majority of mental health issues, including paranoia and hallucinations.

If you have trouble falling or staying asleep, or if you can only sleep for a short period of time, you may be suffering from insomnia.

Symptoms of insomnia include:

  • Tiredness or drowsiness during the day
  • Irritability, sadness, or worry
  • Difficulty paying attention, focusing on tasks, or remembering
  • Increased mistakes or accidents
  • Constant sleep concerns
  • Insomnia can occur for a variety of causes, but the most prevalent ones are:
  • Workplace stress
  • Poor sleep habits
  • Excessive alcohol or caffeine usage at night
  • Habitual night-time screen use

People frequently have difficulties sleeping when they are stressed about job, education, health, finances, or family. Stressful life events or trauma, such as a loved one's death or sickness, divorce, or job loss, may also raise your chances of having sleeplessness. If you are having insomnia, you should also consider your mental and emotional wellness. Insomnia may be contributing to your mental health issues, and resolving it may make you feel much better.


How to improve your sleep

Given the significance of sleep to our health, there is no better time than now to implement some lifestyle adjustments that will allow you to obtain the 7 or more hours of sleep you require. Small modifications to your night-time routine might have a big impact on your health. These are some examples:

  • Set a reasonable bedtime and adhere to it every night, including on weekends.
  • Keep your bedroom at a reasonable temperature and with low lighting levels.
  • Consider imposing a "screen ban" in your bedroom on televisions, laptops and tablets, mobile phones, and other electronic gadgets.
  • Avoid caffeine, alcohol, and heavy meals in the hours before night.
  • Avoid using cigarettes at any time of day or night.
  • Exercising during the day might help you relax and prepare for sleep in the evening.

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