Our modern lifestyles can make certain demands to us so that we have to render long working hours and cut back on our sleeping time. We do overtime work to pay bills, to have extra cash for shopping; we also party at night to make up for lost time with friends and family. In turn, our sleeping time suffers. However, many of us do not know that sleep is important in maintaining health and well-being.
The Importance of Sleep
Sleep is not only a process that we can switch to or switch from. As we sleep, our body is actually at work whole repairing damaged cells and tissues, getting rid of toxic waste in our bodies and maintaining our body processes. Sleep prepares the body for stresses that lie on the day ahead. This is why when we lose sleep, we cannot function effectively during the daytime and we lack energy and feel weak. If we continuously lose sleep every now and then, we are in for a major physical and mental breakdown.
It's wrong to say that cannot be affected by losing only one hour of sleep. Even if you lose just one hour of precious sleep, you can soon feel its consequences such as failing to think properly and respond quickly during the daytime. Perhaps you have heard of several road accidents wherein the driver fell asleep or the pedestrian was to sleepy to mind himself while he was crossing the street. Yes, lack of sleep can lead to accidents, dangerous medical conditions and death. As you continually lose sleep, your body loses its energy balance, your health becomes compromised, and your immune system fails to protect you from illnesses.
It's also wrong to say that your body can easily adapt to changes in sleeping schedule. In the body, sleep is governed by a biological clock we call circadian rhythm. This circadian rhythm is timed on the presence of light during daytime and the lack of light during night-time. Lack of light triggers the release of melatonin, a hormone that makes us feel sleepy. Thus we do not have the power to reset our biological clock because the body itself has expertly timed when we should wake up and when we should go to sleep. This means that during night shift, even if we are awake, our body is programming itself to rest; while when we want to sleep during the daytime, we cannot, because our body is programmed to have good sleep during night-time.
Sleeping more on the weekends to make up for lost sleep is not effective either. It affects your sleep wake cycle so that you will find it hard to sleep during night time because you have slept much in the daytime. Your body is actually programmed to sleep for at least seven hours each night. Children and teenagers even need more than 8 hours of sleep at night than adults. Older people also need at least 7 to 8 hours of sleep at night. You must remember that sleeping optimally can boost your daytime functioning.
Lack of sleep can lead to various bad effects in health such as fatigue, moodiness, weakness, lethargy, irritability, impaired cognition, memory loss, decreased concentration, weight gain, increased accidents, and increased risk for heart disease, diabetes and other medical problems.
Sleep Duration and Depression
A recent study using genetic adult twins and a community-based study of adolescents have revealed that there are links between sleep duration and depression. The results of these studies were published in the journal Sleep. In one study, 1,788 adult twins were studied to demonstrate a gene by environment interaction between self-reported habitual sleep duration and depressive symptoms. The results showed that abnormal sleep durations increase the risk for depression. Twins who have normal sleep duration had a lower risk for depressive symptoms while twins who have a short sleep duration of five hours per night or who have excessively long sleep durations of 10 hours per night or more have high risk for depression.
To know more on how to sleep soundly, you can check out our other articles on this site.