We’ve all been there, tossing and turning in our beds, counting sheep, trying just about anything to try and put our brains to rest so we can dose off into a much needed slumber. Eventually you just give up and end up binge watching Netflix and getting in the habit of not letting our bodies rest the way they need to be.
Sleep deprivation is a common problem among people; in fact, 40 million people in the United States alone suffer from chronic sleep disorders and an additional 20 million experience occasional sleep problems. These issues can be caused from a variety of things, whether it’s the stress of everyday life, your job, or maybe you’re just trading sleep for more work or play. Whatever it is, it’s not something that should be ignored.
A lack of sleep can cause to a variety of short term consequences including, decreased performance and alertness, and memory and cognitive impairment. These things can lead to stress within your relationships, an overall poor quality of life, and even put you at risk of injury from being too sleepy. And that’s just in the short term, in the long term, sleep disorders can contribute to numerous serious medical conditions like heart problems, obesity, mental impairment, depression, and more.
So what is it about sleep that makes it so critical to our health and wellbeing?
Healthy brain function
Sleep helps your brain work properly because as you sleep, your brain is preparing for the next day by resting. When your brain gets rest, it forms new pathways to help you learn and remember information. A good night’s sleep helps improve learning, helps you pay attention, make decisions and be more creative.
Sleep helps heal and repair your heart and blood vessels, it helps you maintain a healthy balance of hormones that make you feel hungry or full, it affects how your body reacts to insulin, and aids in the healthy growth and development of your body. All these things contribute to your overall health and well-being and are important for you to stay healthy.
Lastly, sleep helps you function throughout the day and increases your productivity. After losing sleep for several nights, even a loss of just 1-2 hours a night can alter your ability to function. A common issue with lack of sleep is microsleep, which refers to brief moments of sleep that occur when you’re normally awake. For example, you may drive to work and not remember part of your trip. Issues like microsleep can put you at risk for accidents and other problems that may affect your day-to-day life.
So how much sleep do you really need? It is said that adults require 7-8 hours a day and this does not include naps. Naps provide a short-term boost in alertness and performance but they don’t replace a full night sleep. Therefore they don’t really help make up for lost sleep. And for those of you that sleep more on your days off to catch up, although this may make you feel better, it’ll just upset your body’s natural sleep-wake rhythm.
Sleep is critical in order for you to be successful and healthy, and what good are a few extra hours of work or play if you aren’t really able to give it your everything? Do yourself a favour, get yourself some much needed sleep and stick to a regular schedule!
About the Author
Lauren Marinigh is a Toronto-based online marketing and content development professional, who is completely addicted to traveling, puppies, and GIFs.