Getting enough quality sleep is very important to overall good physical and mental health. When you don’t get enough sleep, especially over an extended period of time, your quality of life can be severely affected. Let’s take a look at the answers to the question why is sleep important.
Understanding the sleep cycle
The human sleep cycle has two key components: REM (rapid eye movement) sleep and NREM (non-repaid eye movement) sleep.
The majority of our sleep cycle is spent in NREM sleep. Up to 80% of the total sleep we get each nigh is NREM. During NREM sleep the body is working to repair itself. Energy levels are renewed. Also, important hormones that aid in growth and development are released.
REM sleep, on the other hand, is essential for our overall mental wellbeing. REM sleep makes up between 20-25% of the total hours slept each night. It is during this stage of the cycle that we dream. During REM sleep the brain is processing and organizing information from the day, building memory, stimulating growth and reducing stress levels.
When the NREM and REM cycles are negatively affected during the sleep cycle, the body and mind both suffer. Waking up frequently during the night, difficulties with breathing, snoring and insomnia can all cause interruptions to the cycle.
healthy brain functions
Sleep gives your body valuable down time in which it works to keep brain functions healthy. During sleep, the brain is working to form new pathways. The formation of these pathways contributes to a stronger memory and the ability to better learn new information. In fact, quality sleep will help you to pay better attention, strengthen your problem solving skills and even increase creativity.
Young children and teenagers especially rely on sleep to aid in growth and development. Cells, tissues and muscles are repaired during the sleep cycle. But being deprived of sleep can cause real problems. If you aren’t getting enough sleep your physical health will deteriorate. You will also be affected in the form of slow reaction times, general moodiness, the inability to pay attention and experience difficulty in making decisions. Sustained sleep deficiency, such as chronic insomnia, can lead to problems with depression. Sleep deprived individuals can experience suicidal thoughts or engage in risk-taking behavior.
If you aren’t getting enough quality sleep, you are at higher risk for heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, kidney disease and diabetes. Good sleep helps to keep the heart and blood vessels functioning properly. Research shows that people who sleep six or less hours a night actually have higher levels on inflammation in their blood. This can take a negative toll on health over time.
Interestingly, sleep deficiency can lead to weight gain and even obesity. This is partly because of an imbalance of hormones. The hormones ghrelin (controls hunger) and leptin (control feelings of fullness) can become out of sync when you are not sleeping enough. The levels of ghrelin in your blood will go up, making you feel hungrier. And the the levels of leptin will go down, making it more difficult to get full.
Insulin levels are also affected by how much sleep you are getting. Insulin is the hormone that controls blood glucose (sugar). When blood sugar levels are too high, you can develop diabetes. Sustained sleep deficiency can cause higher blood glucose levels.
The immune system also needs sleep to stay in healthy working order. Not getting enough sleep can lead to problems with your body being able to fight common infections.
how much sleep do you need?
How much sleep an individual needs each night can vary. Most experts recommend getting a solid 8 hours of sleep every night. Of course, 8 hours may be too much for some people while others may need closer to 10 hours. As we age it may become more difficult to sleep for 8 hours in one go. Taking naps, like children, becomes far more common. You should pay attention to what your body is most comfortable with. If you think you have sleep deficiency it’s a good idea to see a doctor for a consultation.