The Importance of Sleep?

The Importance of Sleep

The Importance of Sleep

One of the necessary functions that our body and mind need to recharge is sleep. It helps you to get refreshed and become alert as soon as you wake up. Do you know that healthy sleep helps to keep your body healthy and avoid all kinds of diseases?

Just without proper sleep, our human brain will not be able to function properly. Also, sleep can help in impairing your abilities related to thinking clearly, concentrating, and even processing memories. Adults need somewhere around seven to nine hours of good sleep. When it concerns teenagers and kids, they need more sleep, especially when they are less than five years of age.

Day-to-day stressors, work schedule, medical condition, and disruptive bedroom environment prevents everyone from getting a good amount of sleep. A positive lifestyle and healthy diet habits will make sure that you are getting sufficient sleep each night. However, for certain people, the lack of sleep will be the first sign of having a sleep disorder.

Basic Science Behind Proper Sleep

In our body, there is an internal body clock. This regulates our sleep cycle and controlling our body’s emotions when it feels tired and is ready for hitting the sack or getting alert or refreshed. One thing you must keep in mind is that this clock operated on a particular 24-hour cycle called a circadian rhythm.

As soon as you wake up from your sleep, you sometimes become hugely tired all around the day. Most of the time, these kinds of feelings will be at a peak during the evening, that often leads to bedtime. Such sleep drive which is called sleep-wake homeostasis is often linked to adenosine. This is an organic compound that is created in the brain.

Now the adenosine levels increase all around the day as and when you become tired. After that, your body breaks down this so-called compound while you are sleeping.

Keep in mind that sometimes the light will even influence the circadian rhythm. Our brain has a special region of nerve cells that is called as the hypothalamus. Even there is a cluster of cells present in the hypothalamus which is called a suprachiasmatic nucleus. This will process signals when our eyes get exposed to artificial and natural light. Such signals will assist the brain to find out whether it is night or day.

As soon as the natural light disappears right in the evening, our body will immediately release melatonin. This is a major hormone that will lead to drowsiness. Now when the sun rises in the morning, our body will release the cortisol hormone that leads to alertness and energy.

Various Stages of Sleep

Stage 1 – NREM: Here this is the first stage that is marking the transition between sleep and wakefulness. This would mostly consist of light sleep. In this sleep, your heart rate and muscles relax, eye movement and breathing starts to slow down, and the same is with the brain waves that are more active whenever you are awake. This stage 1 often will last for various minutes.

Stage 2 – NREM: The second NREM sleep stage is commonly characterized through deep sleep. In this, your breathing and heart rate will continuously slow down and the muscles will begin to relax more. Most importantly, the eye movements will cease, and the body temperature will gradually start to decrease.

Besides the brief moments of higher frequency of electrical activities, the brain waves will begin to slow down. Among the four sleep stages, Stage 2 is the longest one.

Stage 3 – NREM: Unlike other stages, this one plays a major role in making you feel very much refreshed and even alert for the next day’s activities. Breathing, heartbeat, and brain wave activities will reach their lowest levels. Also, our muscles will begin to relax. This stage will be longer at first and then it will decrease as the night goes on.

Now the first REM stage will happen within 90 minutes as soon as you fall asleep. Just like the name suggests, our eyes will start to move forth and back compared to moving quickly under the eyelids. Your heart rate, breathing rate, and blood pressure will start to increase.

Along with these signs, even your dreams will occur in this REM sleep. Your legs and arms will become paralyzed. Well, studies state that this occurs, to prevent yourself from physically acting out while you are dreaming. An important thing to note down is that the duration of each of the REM sleep cycle will gradually increase as soon as the night progresses.

There are various studies supporting and linking REM sleep to memory consolidation. This is the process of converting the currently learned experiences into somewhat long-term memories. Also, the duration of the REM stage will start to reduce as soon as you age, thereby leading you to spend a lot of time in the NREM stages.

Basically, these four stages will be to repeat cyclically all around the night until and unless you wake up. Now for most of the individuals, the sleep cycle duration will be around 90-120 minutes. In addition, the NREM sleep will contain 75% to 80% of each of the cycles. At times, you might wake up briefly at night, however, not remembering the next day. Such episodes are called as the ‘W’ stages.

Necessity of Getting Good Amount of Sleep

As clearly stated above and one that is universal knowledge, adults will need seven hours of sleep each night. This is very much important for proper behavioural and cognitive functions. Of course, an insufficient amount of sleep would lead to huge repercussions. There are studies showing that deprivation of sleep will make people vulnerable to reduced cognition, attention lapses, mood shifts, and delayed reactions.

Studies show that people can easily develop a kind of tolerance to chronic sleep deprivation. Now their bodies and brain would struggle due to the lack of sleep, they might not be aware of their deficiencies as having less sleep might feel normal to them. Besides, having a lack of sleep is commonly linked to gaining a higher risk of suffering from dangerous diseases and medical conditions. Some of them are type 2 diabetes, obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, poor mental health, stroke, etc.

Those adults that are not able to get a good amount of sleep each night must implement some positivity in lifestyle and even sleep habits which can be for seven to nine hours. These would be consisting of –

  • Establishing a realistic bedtime and sticking to it each night, even during the weekends.
  • Maintaining comfortable temperature settings and even low light levels right in the bedroom.
  • Putting a ‘screen ban’ on computers, televisions, and tablets, cell phones, and other major electronic devices right in the bedroom.
  • Refraining from using tobacco each time at day or night.
  • Avoiding alcohol, caffeine, and huge meals during the hours leading to bedtime.
  • Doing a good amount of exercises during the day. This will help you to wind down in the evening and make you prepare for deep sleep.

What Leads to Sleep Problems?

Various psychologist and many scientists that are studying the reasons for sleep disorder clearly state that the issue is, directly and indirectly, related to abnormalities in various systems like –

  • Brain and nervous system
  • Physiological systems
  • Cardiovascular system
  • Metabolic functions
  • Immune system

In addition, there are unhealthy conditions, diseases, and other disorders that lead to serious sleeping issues like –

  • Hypertension and elevated cardiovascular risks like stroke and MI.
  • Pathological sleepiness, accidents, and insomnia.
  • Emotional disorders like bipolar disorder and depression
  • Alcohol and drug abuse
  • Obesity, diabetes, and metabolic syndrome

Various Benefits of a Good Sleep for Your Health

1) Lack of Sleep Leads to Higher Body Weight

Various studies show that lack of sleep leads to extensive weight gain. Commonly, people suffering from short sleep duration would end up gaining weight more than those who get a good amount of sleep. Frankly, you would be surprised to know that short sleep duration is one of the biggest risk factors leading to obesity.

Studies done on certain adults and kids suffering from short-term sleep duration showed that 87% and 58% of each of them were suffering from obesity. Not only that the effect of sleep on one’s weight leads to various factors like motivation for exercising and even hormones. It means that if you are planning on losing weight then quality sleep is very much necessary.

2) People Who Sleep Well Eat Fewer Calories

Multiple studies show that individuals who are deprived of sleep have the biggest appetite. They tend to consume more calories. Not only that, but sleep deprivation also affects the daily functions of the appetite hormones. This leads to poor appetite regulation. Here this leads to higher levels of ghrelin, which is the hormone that stimulates appetite.

Also, it reduces the levels of leptin, which is the hormone that can suppress one’s appetite.

3) Good Sleep Improves One’s Concentration and Productivity

Most people are not aware that sleep is necessary for the various aspects of the brain’s function. These consist of concentration, cognition, performance, and productivity. Of course, these are negatively affected by sleep deprivation.

Now a study was conducted on certain medical interns and it showed that the traditional schedule of interns who were working on extended hours of more than 24 made 36% serious medical errors compared to other interns.

4) Excellent Sleep Maximizes Athletic Performances

Do you know sleep has shown to easily enhance the athletic performance of various people? A study was conducted on selected basketball players. Those who had longer sleep had a great amount of improvements in terms of accuracy, speed, mental-wellbeing, and reaction time.

Here lesser duration of sleep led to awfully bad exercise performance and even limiting the functions of players, especially women.

5) Lack of Sleep Leads to Stroke and Heart Diseases

Sleep duration and quality will have a huge effect on one’s health. Such factors lead to chronic diseases like heart diseases. A university in the USA conducted a review of 15 studies. It was found that people lacking a good amount of sleep had a greater risk of suffering from stroke and heart diseases compared to ones that sleep for 7-8 hours each day.

6) Sleep Will Affect Glucose Metabolism and Type-2 Diabetes

Sometimes experimental sleep restrictions would affect blood sugar. It will even lower the levels of insulin sensitivity. A study was conducted by healthy men, who were sleeping only for 4 hours for six nights continuously. They suffered from symptoms of prediabetes. Now luckily, these symptoms got resolved after one week of proper and increased sleep timing.

Keep in mind that poor sleep habits are often linked to bad effects on blood sugar among the generation population. People who sleep for less than six hours each night suffer from an acute case of type 2 diabetes.

7) Poor Sleep Leads to Depression

Various mental health issues like depression are often linked to a lack of proper sleep and various sleeping disorders. Studies show that more than 88% of the people suffering from depression complain of the lack of proper sleep.

In addition, the lack of sleep often increases the chance of dying due to suicide. People who suffer from a sleeping disorder like insomnia or any other kind of obstructive sleep apnea suffer from higher rates of depression compared to the ones that do not have.

Ultimately Sleep Is Necessary for Our Body

Just think about it! Without proper sleep, our body will not function in the correct way. We would end up sulking all day long and even our day-to-day activities will go for a toss. Ultimately, a good night’s sleep of seven to eight hours would just refresh our body and mind.


Saravavan Nadarajan (Vanan)

Vanan, fitness expert and leader at EzFit Singapore, specializes in holistic training—home-based, boot camps, and corporate fitness—with over a decade of industry experience.