Sleep is a natural biological process, essential in every 24-hour cycle, which allows our bodies to repair damaged cells, store memories, and rejuvenates our bodies for the next awake cycle.
Popular motivational speakers, top athletes, celebrities, and business people, especially those considered successful in life, a state with pride that they can get by on 3 or 4 hours of sleep a night.
Most of these extraordinary people appear to be wide-eyed and bushy-tailed, radiating electrifying energy that will quickly convince you that you can be a success.
We, the unsuspecting audience, savor all the magic words, and some of us believe less sleep means more success.
Trust me, sleep experts will disagree with this notion! Many of these extraordinary people will suffer from burnout and develop health issues that, if not addressed, may lead to more severe conditions.
The bottom line is that sleep is essential to good health, cognitive ability, and longevity. Sleep is the most critical stabilizing ingredient that enables quality of life and helps regulate human behavior.
Hence, if you sleep well, you can better manage the success you aspire to achieve.
Sleep on that!
Many of the woes we experience in life can be traced back to either too much sleep, too little sleep, or an erratic sleep pattern.
Sleep is a vital part of our daily cycle which should be enjoyed as a single activity and not patched together with 4 or 5 catnaps over 24 hours.
Our biological makeup requires a specific sleep pattern to contribute to optimum function during our awake hours effectively.
Let’s look at the intricacies of sleep to understand better why sleep is so important.
Reasons why proper sleep is important
Quality sleep is a developed sleep pattern that promotes good health and mental acuity. You’ve probably familiar with getting 8 hours of regular sleep every night.
This is the recommended nightly amount of sleep for adults, but children need more sleep hours in their development years from birth through adulthood.
According to sleep experts, quality sleep is vital to our health, both physical and mental, for the following reasons:
Helps the brain function: Quality sleep allows you to think more clearly and make better decisions. Mental alertness affects your performance in everything you do. With poor sleep, your brain’s performance suffers. Your reaction time becomes slower and rational thinking more difficult. Safe driving tips include taking regular rest stops and not driving when tired.
Keeps emotions in check: Quality sleep reduces stress and improves your mood so you can get along better with others. Without a healthy sleep pattern, you may begin experiencing mood swings, which are tantrums in children. Inadequate sleep is often linked to depression, suicide, and risky behavior. Your brain processes your emotions while you sleep. Sleep helps your brain to react the right way. When you cut your sleep short, you tend to have more negative emotional reactions and fewer positive ones.
Reduces disease risk: You become sick less often with quality sleep and lower your risk of developing severe health problems, like diabetes and heart disease. Sleep deprivation increases their risk of heart and kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and other conditions. Lack of adequate sleep also affects your immune system, which is your first line of defense against viral and bacterial infections.
Stay at a healthy weight: Quality sleep regulates your appetite hormones known as leptin and ghrelin. A poor sleep pattern will increase your appetite, and you will eat and drink much more than you need, resulting in weight gain. The results of a study indicate that adults who are sleep deprived are 55% more likely to become obese. Weight loss programs should always include quality sleep.
What is Quality Sleep
To best understand quality sleep, we must go back in time and look at life before the electric light and modern technological advancements.
Life for humans revolves around the sun’s rising and setting, which is the foundation for our biological circadian rhythm. People are alert and engaged in activities during sunlight, but as the sun sets, we begin relaxing.
About two hours after sunset, we start feeling sleepy and will sleep until the sun rises and wakes us naturally.
As the sun sets, our bodies produce the hormone melatonin to make us sleepy. Without interruptions, we will sleep through the night, which is usually about 8 hours for adults depending on your location.
This is the basis of our circadian rhythm, which should be followed every 24-hour cycle. Quality sleep is governed by our “sleep pattern” or circadian rhythm. When the sun rises in the morning, the body releases the hormone cortisol, which promotes energy and alertness.
Quality sleep is the continuous sleep we need in a 24-hour cycle for our body to recharge or rejuvenate itself. Sleep becomes quality when the recommended hours are repeated daily or nightly.
We cannot have 3 or 4 hours of sleep from Monday to Friday and then 12 hours a night over the weekend. This will lead to developing sleep disorder symptoms.
In contemporary times, we are exposed to artificial light, which plays havoc on our circadian rhythm. Blue light from electronic devices interferes with the natural secretion of melatonin.
Instead of winding down for sleep, we unknowingly keep our brains active for longer. We need to control our exposure to artificial light to get the proper nightly sleep. This is particularly important for children.
We also need to create a suitable sleep environment that is dark, quiet, and well-ventilated. A comfortable bed fitted with the right bedding that complements our sleep needs is equally essential.
Four stages of sleep repeat cyclically throughout the night and play a big part in learning and memory. The duration of each sleep cycle, excluding the first stage, will typically last about 90 to 120 minutes.
The first three stages are known as NREM (non-rapid eye movement) sleep, and the final stage is known as REM (rapid eye movement) sleep.
Stage 1 NREM: This first stage is the time between wakefulness and sleep which consists of light sleep. Your muscles will begin to relax, and your heart rate, breathing, and eye movements will slow down. Your brain function will also slow down. Stage 1 typically lasts several minutes.
Stage 2 NREM: This second NREM sleep stage is characterized by deeper sleep as your heart rate and breathing rates continue slowing down, and your muscles become more relaxed.
Your eye movements will cease, and your body temperature will decrease. Besides some brief moments of higher-frequency electrical activity, brain waves also remain slow. Stage 2 is typically the longest of the four sleep stages.
Stage 3 NREM: This stage is essential in making you feel refreshed and alert the next day. Heartbeat, breathing, and brain wave activity all reach their lowest levels, and the muscles fully relax. This stage will be longer at first and will decrease throughout the night.
Stage 4 REM: The first REM stage will occur about 90 minutes after you fall asleep. As the name suggests, your eyes move back and forth quickly under your eyelids. Breathing rate, heart rate, and blood pressure will begin to increase.
Dreaming typically occurs during REM sleep, and your arms and legs become paralyzed. The experts believe this is intended to prevent you from physically acting out on your dreams.
The duration of each REM sleep cycle increases as the night progresses. Numerous studies have also linked REM sleep to memory consolidation, which converts recent experiences into long-term memories.
The duration of the REM stage will decrease as you age, causing you to spend more time in the NREM stages. Bottom of Form
What factors can change circadian rhythms?
As you may have gathered, many factors influence our sleep. If one or a combination of these factors are neglected, it’s a given that sleep disruptions or disorders will follow. Quality sleep governs our biological functions, which are essential to the quality of life.
Changes in our body and environmental factors can cause our circadian rhythms and the natural light-dark cycle to be out of sync.
These changes can cause sleep disorders and lead to other chronic health conditions, such as obesity, diabetes, depression, bipolar disorder, and seasonal affective disorder. Other factors include:
Mutations or changes in specific genes can affect our biological clocks.
Jet lag or shift work causes changes in the light-dark cycle.
Light from electronic devices at night can confuse our biological clocks.
How much sleep do we need?
The right amount of sleep largely depends on your age. The National Sleep Foundation recommends daily sleep allotment for different age groups.
Recommended Hours of Sleep
65 years and older
We will all experience difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep from time to time.
Good sleep is essential for maintaining our mental health, as one night of sleep deprivation can dramatically affect your mood the next day.
Chronic exposure to poor sleep quality is frequently associated with depression, anxiety, and other conditions.
Experiencing anxiety and depression very often affects sleep, which impacts our ability to cope with the anxiety or depression.
This looping effect will undoubtedly develop into a sleep disorder. A sleep disorder is characterized by repeatedly not being able to sleep for the recommended period. Common signs of sleep disorders include:
Trouble falling or staying asleep. Often, this is stress-related.
You still feel tired after a good night’s sleep.
Sleepiness during the day makes it difficult to do everyday activities, like driving or concentrating at work.
Frequent loud snoring
Pauses in breathing or gasping while sleeping
Tingling or crawling feelings in your legs or arms at night that feel better when you move or massage the area
Feeling like it’s hard to move when you first wake up
If you experience any of these signs regularly, talk to your doctor. You may need testing or treatment for a sleep disorder.
To get the right amount of nightly sleep, consider implementing a few gradual lifestyle changes, including a set sleep routine.
Establish a realistic bedtime and stick to it every night, even on the weekends. You should also pay attention to your daily activities. You can shift exercising to the morning as opposed to the evenings.
Make small changes to your diet that complement your sleep routine. You can still enjoy caffeinated drinks at the right time.
f you have a TV in your bedroom, remove it and limit the use of electronic screen devices at least two hours before bedtime.
Lifestyle changes focusing on quality sleep will only benefit you in the long run. The most important lifestyle change is to work on improving your sleep environment.