Sleep plays a significant role in our health and well-being. But with our hectic and tedious schedules, we often end up taking it for granted. We tell ourselves that 3-4 hours of sleep is enough and we can make up for less sleep by drinking more coffee. But we are fooling ourselves. Lack of adequate sleep affects both our cognitive abilities and physical health. Impaired thinking can cause accidents during your waking hours. Your quality of life will suffer from your sleep-deprived brain.
The way you feel when you are awake depends on how long you have slept. As you sleep, your body works to support the healthy function of your brain by cleaning out toxins. It also uses the down time to repair damaged cells and maintain your physical health. For kids and young adults, sleep also plays a vital role in development and growth.
Issues from lack of sleep might occur all of a sudden, or they can also harm you over time. Regular deficiency in sleep can increase your risk of chronic health problems. It is also likely to affect the way you think, work, respond to certain situations, and get along with others. Due to these reasons, it is imperative that you set aside proper time for sleeping. In case you still have doubts about the importance of sleep, let’s take a deeper look at some areas affected by sleep.
1. Cognitive health. Scientists haven’t yet agreed on the reasons why we sleep. But they do agree it has something to do with cognitive health. An adequate amount of sleep plays a vital role in helping your brain work the right way. As you sleep, your brain prepares itself for the next day. It forms new pathways so that you can learn more and keep more information. Whether you’re solving problems, playing piano, or driving, sleep will help you focus.
2. Emotional development. A good night’s sleep promotes better emotional development by helping you regulate your emotions and be more creative. Scientists have also found that lack of sleep alters activity in several parts of your brain. Sleeping too little hinders your performance in problem-solving and decision-making. It also makes it harder to control impulses, express emotions and motivate yourself. It can lead to depression, suicidal thoughts and bad habits.
3. Blood vessels. Sleep also plays a significant role in helping to repair and heal your blood vessels. Consistent deficiency in sleep leads to a greater risk of heart disease. It can also lead to kidney disease, high blood sugar level, high blood pressure and stroke.
4. Obesity. Too little sleep can leave you feeling tired and moody. It can also cause changes in your diet. When you get consistent sleep, your body regulates ghrelin and leptin. Ghrelin and leptin are hormones that regulate energy and appetite. When you do not get enough sleep, the level of ghrelin in your system rises, and the level of leptin falls. When you are sleep-deprived, you feel more hungry because getting adequate sleep controls hunger. Hunger is one of the mechanisms your body uses to maintain a healthy body weight.
5. Growth. Sleep supports healthy development and growth in kids and teenagers. Deep sleep causes your body to release hormones that promote healthy development. These hormones boost muscle mass and help in repairing damaged tissue and cells.
How Many Hours of Sleep Do You Need?
When you are struggling to meet the demands of daily life, cutting down on sleep might seem like a solution. Sacrificing two to three hours of rest to get some more work done might sound like a reasonable tradeoff. But in reality, sacrificing sleep can reduce your productivity. It compromises your cognitive abilities, energy levels, and ability to deal with stress. On top of that, fewer hours of sleep will wreak havoc on your health in the long run. It is important to understand your daily sleep requirements. Once you know how much sleep you need, you can ensure that you get enough each night.
There is a difference between the least hours of sleep you need and the optimal hours of sleep you need. According to the National Institute of Health, the average adult sleeps less than six hours a night. In our fast-paced our society, that might sound reasonable. But in reality, it paves the way for the long-term effects of sleep deprivation. You might feel okay getting the minimal amount of sleep. But chances are, you will feel better and get more work done if you spend a couple of extra hours in bed.
Sleep requirements vary between individuals. Most healthy adults need 7-9 hours of sleep a night. Most adults can only function at their best when they get more than seven hours of sleep. Children need even more sleep. Newborn babies need about 14-17 hours of sleep a day. Toddlers need 10-13 hours of sleep. Teenagers need 8-10 hours of sleep a night.
There is also a popular notion that sleep requirements decrease with age. Most older adults still function best with seven hours of sleep. Older adults often break up their sleep time between an extended period of sleep at night and daytime naps.
You should also consider the quality of sleep. Some people have better quality sleep than others. Those who sleep well might need fewer hours of sleep than those who don’t. Your consistency, habits, and environment will affect the quality of your sleep. You should consider these variables when determining how much sleep you need.
Signs You Are Not Getting Enough Sleep
About 30% of all adults do not get adequate sleep at night. It is a major public health epidemic. Do you happen to be among the 30%? Here are a few of signs that you might be sleep deprived.
1. You experience frequent mood swings. The number of hours you spend sleeping determines how you feel during the day. Being moody, depressed or irritable are signs that you are experiencing a sleep issue. Insomnia often causes anxiety and depression. Sleep deprivation can affect your emotional health even if you don’t have issues during sleep.
2. You are not productive. Lack of sleep can affect your level of motivation and productivity. If you have trouble getting out of bed, you are probably not getting enough sleep.
3. You are gaining excessive weight. As mentioned earlier, lack of sleep can increase your appetite. It makes it harder to avoid snacking. Sleeping less than six hours a day reduces the amount of leptin in your body. Leptin is a hormone that suppresses your appetite. Too little leptin in your body causes food cravings. At the same time, you also have a higher chance of developing type-2 diabetes.
4. You feel tired throughout the day. If you yawn often or need several cups of coffee stay awake for the day, you are probably sleep deprived.
5. You tend to forget little things. Sleep helps your brain process the information that you encounter throughout the day. It also gives your brain an opportunity to organize itself and stay refreshed. Without that necessary time, your performance on the following day will suffer.
6. You have a lower sex drive. According to the National Sleep Foundation, lack of sleep affects your libido. It is not only because of the lack of adequate energy but also because of higher levels of stress.
So if you want to have good health, make it a point to get enough consistent sleep every night.
• Sleep is vital to your mental and physical health.
• Most people require at least seven hours of sleep. Children need more.
• The quality of sleep is as important as the quantity.
• Lack of sleep causes mood swings, low productivity, weight gain, fatigue, lapses in memory, and lowered sex drive.