Importance of sleep

Importance of Sleep in our Daily Life

Importance of Sleep in our Daily Life

Our frenzied competitive city life demanding prolonged working hours and working in shifts has resulted in irregular sleep schedules. Our choice of television and internet browsing as a source of entertainment has had us all relegating health its deserved attention. Misplaced priorities of earning more coupled with a general perception, that sleep is an avoidable “waste of time”, most adults and children sleep on an average five hours a day. Studies have reported that sleeping five hours or less increased mortality risk from all causes, by roughly fifteen percent. Sleep insufficiency affects the release of appetite controlling hormones resulting in obesity. Anyone with less than seven hours sleep is medically considered as sleep deprived.

As per an article by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI), at a physical level, the effect of lack of sleep is seen in diminished muscle strength and endurance, increased wear and tear on the vital organs, heightened sensitivity to pain, disruption of insulin production and sugar metabolism, increasing risk of diabetes and perhaps most importantly, a weakened immune system, which decreases defenses against illness.

There are several studies supported by National Institute of Health to understand the effect of sleep deprivation on mental health. In a University of Pennsylvania study, subjects were allowed mere 4.5 hours of daily sleep. They reported feeling mentally exhausted, sad, irritated and angry. A research carried out by Department of Forensic Psychiatry, Netherlands, clinical observations found that sleep problems may be a causal factor in the development of reactive aggression, hostility and violence. Medically explained, the prefrontal cortex ceases its activity and regenerates during sleep. Lack of sleep impairs its function directly correlating to loss in emotional control, faulty decision making and anti-social behavior.

Article posted by University of Michigan, Health Systems, says sleep deprivation may have a correlation to one’s tendency to blame others and plan revenge. Adolescents, who do not get enough sleep, misbehave and may be overly active, sometimes misdiagnosed as suffering from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Stress causes one to be more alert with amplified aggressive response and less emotionally responsive.

Sleep disorders signal underlying psychological problems. A study involving 10,000 adults, reported that people with insomnia were 5 times more likely to develop depression and twenty times more likely to develop panic attack.

The most common underlying causes of chronic sleep issues are:

  • Chronic stress or an over-stimulated nervous system.
  • Hormonal imbalances (adrenal, thyroid and reproductive hormones)
  • Poor diet (too much sugar, processed and refined foods and the common foods that cause sensitivities: gluten and dairy.)
  • Stimulants or substances that can affect sleep (alcohol, caffeine, medications, recreational drugs, herbs, and even some vitamins.)
  • Gastro-intestinal dysfunction
  • Chronic pain
  • Sleep Apnea

Interestingly, simple and significant reversal to all the negative effects can be achieved over a period of time merely through getting right quality and quantity of sleep.

Sleep is regulated by two body systems: sleep/wake homeostasis and the circadian biological clock.

When we have been awake for a long period of time, sleep/wake homeostasis tells us that a need for sleep is accumulating and that it is time for us to sleep. Our internal circadian biological clocks, on the other hand, regulate the timing of periods of sleepiness and wakefulness throughout the day. The circadian rhythm dips and rises at different times of the day, so adults’ strongest sleep drive generally occurs between 2:00-4:00 am and in the afternoon between 1:00-3:00 pm, although there is some variation depending on whether you are a “morning person” or “evening person.”

Scientists have found a second “food clock” that takes over when we are hungry. According to a study from the Harvard Medical School not eating for 12-16 hours can help people quickly reset their sleep-wake cycle. This discovery can drastically improve a person’s ability to cope with jet lag or adjust to working late shifts.

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