Mar 13 2018

Why sleep is so important?

Sufficient sleep is just as important as nutrition and exercise for a good health!

For many of us the worst moment of the day is the time when we hear our alarm ring

Beeeeeep……… beeeeep……… beeeeep………..

That noise marks the daily return from the mysterious world we call sleep, in which we spend more than 1/3 of our life span. For a long time sleep was considered as just a passive state of mind, a suspension from body’s normal activities. But during the past few decades researchers have proven that sleep might be the single most important behavior that humans and other animals experience.

What is “Sleep”?

Although it seems like we don’t do much during sleep, neuroscience tells a different story.

Human sleep patterns are controlled by two competing networks of chemical and electrical signals in the brain. During the waking hours, neurotransmitters released deep within the brain keep the cerebral cortex alert and primed for consciousness. But throughout the day, as neurons break down ATP for energy, the byproduct Adenosine builds up and activates sleep control neurons near the hypothalamus, a special region in the center of our brain which acts as the master biological clock(1).  Light sensitive cells in the retina feed signal deep into that brain region, training neurons to sync up with earth’s 24hr cycle of day and night. These circadian rhythms are the control switch which tells us to feel sleepy or awake. As the world goes dark, this master switch tells the pineal gland to increase the melatonin hormone levels in blood. This leads to a decrement in body temperature and makes the person feel fatigue(2).

Other than the odd snapshots of a dream from here and there, most of us have no idea what happens after we close our eyes, right? In fact, as soon as you fall asleep most of your senses are turned off putting you into a greatly vulnerable state, implying that sleep must have some really important health benefits in trade for the risk.

How many hours should I sleep a day?

According to National Sleep Foundation an adult should get an average of 7 to 8 hours sleep a day. This needs to be regular and uninterrupted. For children since they are spending a rapid developing stage in their life they need to keep it a little bit higher. For a teen it’ll be around 8 -10hrs and for a toddler it’ll be around 11-14hrs a day. Always try to find some time for a quality sleep in your busy hectic life style.

Here are the top 6 reasons why you should have a sound sleep.

1. Sleep reduces depression

A good night’s sleep can help you tackle the everyday stress!

A number of researches have been conducted to study the connection between sleep and mood(3). As a result they have found that, insomnia patients or sleep deprived people have higher levels of depression and anxiety than those who sleep normally(4). Vice versa, depression itself can lead to sleeping problems which is mainly due to an imbalance in brain serotonin levels, a neurotransmitter. According to statistical data it has been shown that over 90% of patients suffering from depression complain about their sleep quality. Sleep deprivation can also be one of the risk factors for death by suicide(5).

2. Sleep improves Immunity

Do you know the reason why you get a runny nose after having short sleep hours the night before?

This is because sleep deprivation caused your immune system to be depressed. When we sleep, the immune system releases a protein called cytokine. When you are suffering from an infection or inflammation, or when you’re under stress, this cytokine production needs to be increased to help the immune system to battle against the pathogens. But when you are sleep deprived, it may lead to decreased production of these protective cytokines, increasing your susceptibility to infections. Also, production of protective antibodies and cells is decreased when the person is sleep deprived. So, whether it is to boost your immunity, to prevent or have a successful recovery from an infectious disease, getting sufficient sleep is a must do(6).

3. Poor sleep will make you fat

Did you ever think that keeping yourself awake at night could make you obese? Sounds impossible right? But scientists have a different story to tell.

Short sleep has been identified as one of the greatest risk factors for obesity. In a study conducted for both children and adults, it has been shown that a percentage of 89% and 55% respectively were likely to become obese(7, 8).

Here are some possible ways how a sleep deprived person can become obese. Lack of sleep may disrupt the balance of hormones that control your appetite, making the sleep deprived people to be hungrier than the ones who get a sufficient sleep at night. Due to fatigue, sleep deprived people may be too lazy to engage in any calorie burning exercises, increasing their susceptibility to become obese. Or else sleep deprived people are more prone to take more calories than the ones who sleep better just because they are awake longer and have more chances to eat.

4. A good sleep improves your memory and focus

Having trouble with your memory although you tried to stick with your books overnight? Sleep deprivation might be the cause(9).

Sleep is the time when our brain processes and stores the information we received throughout the day. New synapses and studies have proven that sleep promotes the consolidation of newly formed memories in people. When we are tired and sleep deprived, our focus and attention drifts, making it difficult to process information. Without an adequate rest, our exhausted neurons fail to function and coordinate properly making it hard to retrieve previously learned information which makes the person to perform badly in school or office(10).

5. Poor sleep increases risk of strokes and heart diseases

Regardless of age, weight and exercise habits people who are sleep deprived are at a higher risk of getting cardiovascular diseases. A study that was conducted with over 3000 adults above 45 years of age showed that the ones who slept less than 6 hours a day had twice the risk of having a stroke or heart attack than the ones who slept 6 to 8 hours a day(11). It is not completely clear how sleep deprivation could increase the risk of heart diseases or strokes, but following facts may give us a hint on the pathophysiology of developing these conditions. Usually during sleep, our blood pressure and heart rate falls down decreasing our heart’s workload. But sleep deprived people tend to show less variability in their heart rate, keeping an elevated blood pressure level as well. Also, since lack of sleep induces insulin

resistance which is a long term risk factor for heart diseases, these sleep deprived people are more prone to develop cardiovascular diseases. Sleep deprivation can increase your C- reactive protein levels, a protein which is released with stress and inflammation. Inflammation is one of the main reasons for developing heart and artery diseases thus making sufficient sleep an essential factor for a healthy heart and brain.

6. Poor sleep increases type 2 diabetes risk

It’s not just sugar. Even lack of sleep might put you down with the misery of Type 2 diabetes(12)!

Researchers have provided evidence suggesting that sleep deprivation could lead to a pre-diabetic state in healthy individuals despite of their diet and exercise routine. According to them development of type 2 DM in such patients is due to the insulin resistance which develops from sleep deprivation. Insulin is the hormone which helps the body cells to intake and metabolizes glucose for the energy production. But when there’s an insulin resistance cells fail to use insulin effectively ultimately making blood glucose levels high which leads to type 2 diabetes(13).

If you have ever thought that sleep is not much important, think again, because it really matters a lot if your goal is a healthy life. Let’s share some valuable tips for a great sleep in the comments section.

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