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Sleep: Why is it so important?

Everybody loves a few extra hours of sleep, especially when that annoying alarm clock goes off at 5 am. Most mornings, you could swear that you have just closed your eyes, and suddenly six hours have passed; time to wake up and be an adult!

In a ‘rise and grind’ culture, we are finding ourselves sleeping less and working more. Many people are now choosing to have side hustles to make more money, instead of making sure to get the proper amount of rest in their busy schedules. And this is understandable; life has become increasingly expensive to maintain even a moderate lifestyle. But is sacrificing our sleep taking its toll on our bodies and mental health?

The short answer is yes. 

Sleep is the body’s time to regenerate

Getting enough sleep is essential for every single bodily function, including cell regeneration, memory consolidation and muscle repair. A body that doesn’t rest doesn’t have time to restore itself, and over time, you may find yourself needing to catch up on the amount of rest you have lost. Children and teenagers need even more rest; around 11 hours a day to function at their best as well as be happy. Have you ever seen a tired, cranky kid? It isn’t pretty. 

Read More About Children’s Health Services Here

Rest helps us thrive by adding to a healthy immune system and can also balance our appetites by regulating levels of the hormones ghrelin and leptin, which play a role in our feelings of hunger and fullness, says the Sleep Foundation.

 Scientists linked lack of rest to weight gain and poor digestion. People who have wonky snooze schedules tend to wake up at odd hours and feel hungry at different times of the day, due to lack of routine. Unhealthy, pre-packaged and processed snacks are the easiest to grab while on the run, or if you are too tired to make a meal from scratch – and let’s be honest, all that sugar and salt are super tasty. But in the long run, with slower digestion and no time to exercise and a lack of rest, it can lead to obesity, which itself causes other health issues you want to avoid!

What are other adverse side effects caused by a lack of sleep?

Sleep helps with your productivity

A rested person is a productive person, as you cannot be at the top of your game if you don’t have a clear head. 

Several studies in the last decade have linked sleeplessness to several brain functions. People have even warned against the dangers of driving if you are tired. Your judgment is as impaired as a drunk person, which is an indicator of how seriously lack of shut-eye affects your brain.

Physical strength

Athletes also benefit from as many as 10 hours’ of sleep a night, according to the National Sleep Foundation. Rest is as important to athletes as eating enough calories and nutrients.

One of the reasons for this requirement is that the body heals during sleep, explains Medical News Today. Other benefits include better performance intensity, more energy, coordination, faster speed, better mental functioning.

Well-being

Well-rested people have a general feeling of calm and well-being. Which is essential, as the better you feel, the more capable you feel to handle the things that life throws at you. Sleep deprivation affects your psychological and mental health. Sleeplessness also causes depression and other mental health issues. 

Getting an adequate amount of rest will also help you deal with the side effects of stress. Stress is a killer that affects every part of your body and manifests itself in actual physical ailments like stomach problems and chronic pain. A lack of shut-eye can cause irritability and amplify the effects of being stressed out.

REM (rapid eye movement) sleep

REM sleep is that part of the sleep cycle during which we dream. Our heart rate elevates, and so does our blood pressure and body temperature. REM is the part of our sleep cycle that enhances learning and memory, and which contributes to emotional health. You may have heard many people say that we ‘deal with certain issues that bother us’ in our sleep. 

When you disrupt this sleep, it can impair our emotional and critical thinking parts of our brain.

People who suffer from mental health disorders are more prone to have insomnia or other sleep disorders. Insomnia is particularly common in patients with anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), says a paper on the Harvard Health Publishing website. 

“The brain basis of a mutual relationship between sleep and mental health is not yet completely understood. But neuroimaging and neurochemistry studies suggest that a good night’s sleep helps foster both mental and emotional resilience. In contrast, chronic sleep deprivation sets the stage for negative thinking and emotional vulnerability.”

What is insomnia? 

Insomnia is the chronic inability to get a good night’s rest. People who have insomnia spend nights, even weeks awake. It can take its toll on their quality of life. Many things cause insomnia; medication side effects, stress and anxiety are but a few. 

People who consume loads of caffeine or natural stimulants also find it harder to fall asleep at night. 

How Much Sleep Do You Need?

The jury is still out on the exact amount of hours needed for optimum productivity the next day, but we believe people need around 7 to 9 hours of quality sleep a night. This amount of time is roughly the equivalent of sleeping for half of your life.

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