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Why Is Sleep Important?

Sleep plays a vital role in your overall wellbeing, helping you to function properly throughout the day both mentally and physically. It also helps children and teens to develop, and is therefore essential for all ages.

Although sleep plays such an important role, reports have shown that one in three adults don’t get the sleep their body needs.

A lack of sleep can lead to numerous different complications, ultimately lowering your productivity, your mental wellbeing, and subsequently your quality of life.

Sleep deficiency can affect you in various different ways. A chronic lack of sleep can lead to some serious health complications, as well as affecting how you think, feel and work throughout the day.

It’s important to make sure you get the right amount of sleep, helping to safeguard your health and wellbeing. This guide looks at why sleep deprivation is harmful, how much sleep you should be getting and how to ensure you get it.

 

How Do You Fall Asleep?  

 

 

There are various different factors that help prepare your body for sleeping and waking up. Everyone has an “internal body clock” which lets the body know when it’s time to be awake and when you’re ready for sleep.

There are two significant processes that help in regulating your sleep/wake cycle, the first of these being a pressure for the body to sleep. This pressure builds up throughout the day, peaking in the evening. A compound called Adenosine has been linked to this particular process, the levels of this compound rising whilst awake, and being broken down as you sleep.

The second process is linked to the previously mentioned internal body clock, which syncs up with certain environmental factors, such as light, to help regulate when the body is asleep and awake.

When your environment is dark, your body releases melatonin, a hormone that tells the body it’s time for sleep.

Melatonin helps you feel drowsy, making it easier to drift off. The amount of melatonin in the body, similar to Adenosine, peaks during the evening, which is thought to be an important part of preparing the body for sleep. 

Falling asleep is a process involving numerous different environmental cues. Being proactive about this and optimising your environment for a healthy sleep/wake cycle can help to further along this process, and improve your sleep quality

 

Why is a Lack of Sleep Harmful?

 

 

Sleep plays a crucial role in maintaining overall health and wellbeing. Therefore, it’s no wonder that depriving the body of sleep can lead to some serious complications. Sleep deprivation can have a significant impact on the following three areas:

 

  • Performance and productivity
  • Mental wellbeing
  • Physical health

 

Being well rested helps you to function throughout the day. People who have not had sufficient amounts of sleep are usually less productive with their work, are slower to finish tasks, and often make more mistakes.

Studies have shown that a lack of sleep can put a strain on your mental wellbeing, making it more difficult to control emotions or cope with new changes to your life. In addition to this, sleep deprivation has also been associated with suicide, depression and other concerning types of behaviour.

Sleep is also important for various different healing processes, helping to make repairs to the heart and blood vessels. A chronic lack of sleep has been linked to higher risks of such health issues as heart disease, high blood pressure, obesity and strokes. Therefore, sleep is needed to help maintain your physical health, involved in regulating a multitude of your body’s physical processes.

 

How Much Sleep Should I Have?

 

 

The right amount of sleep will vary depending upon your age. The National Sleep Foundation Scientific Advisory Council suggests the following recommendations for all age categories:

 

Age

Recommended Amount of Sleep

Newborns (0 – 3 months)

14 – 17 hours a day

Infants (4 – 11 months)

12 – 15 hours a day

Toddlers (1 – 2 years)

11 – 14 hours a day

Preschoolers (3 – 5 years)

10 – 13 hours a day

School age children (6 – 13 years)

9 – 11 hours a day

Teenagers (14 – 17 years)

8 – 10 hours a day

Younger adults (18 – 25 years)

7 – 9 hours a day

Adults (26 – 64 years)

7 – 9 hours a day

Older Adults (65+ years)

7 – 8 hours a day

 

For those who regularly sleep less than the recommended hours, the amount of sleep you are deficient in becomes your sleep debt. Some people try to deal with their sleep debt by napping throughout the day, and whilst this can give a temporary boost, it is not as beneficial as simply having a full night’s rest.

 

Tips for Getting Enough Sleep

 

 

There are a variety of different things you can do to help both improve and maintain a good quality of sleep, including the following:

 

  • Sticking to a set bedtime – going to bed and waking up at the same time every day can help to regulate your body clock and help you get the quality and quantity of sleep you need.
  • Optimising your environment – creating a dark, cool and quiet environment can help make it easier to fall asleep. Additionally, using a weighted blanket could help to alleviate anxiety and help you sleep, the pressure they provide being shown to increase serotonin (which helps to regulate sleep).
  • Cutting down on stimulants – it comes as no surprise that caffeine can affect your sleep, making it difficult to drift off whilst also preventing deep sleep from occurring. Cutting down on caffeine before bed may help to facilitate a better quantity and quality of sleep.
  • Being active throughout the day – being active and exercising regularly can help you to sleep better. However, if exercise affects your sleep when done just before bed, it’s best to be active earlier on in the day.

 

For more insights on sleep, please visit our blog.

 

Sources:

https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/sleep-deprivation-and-deficiency

https://www.health.harvard.edu/heart-health/are-you-getting-enough-sleep

https://www.sleepfoundation.org/articles/how-much-sleep-do-we-really-need

https://www.nhs.uk/oneyou/every-mind-matters/sleep/#custom-2column-share-shelf

https://sleepcouncil.org.uk/can-a-weighted-blanket-help-you-sleep/

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