Sleep is one of few things for which, as toddlers, we fought going to bed, and as adults, we do anything to squeeze an extra hour of rest. But why is sleeping so important?
Besides the obvious immediate benefits of feeling refreshed after a good night sleep, the quality and duration of every sleep directly affect the functioning of your body and brain: Sleeping can improve your alertness, optimism, interpersonal relationships, aid in the prevention of disease, and sleep is the key to consolidate new knowledge, refresh memory and to repair cells and bodily functions.
In general, people are getting less sleep than needed because of longer work hours and the availability of unceasing entertainment and activities.
HOW MUCH SLEEP DO WE NEED?
We have been told many times that we need to get 7 or more hours of sleep for our proper brain functioning. There are reasons for this. As rest goes through phases and each phase goes in and out – having 7 or more hours of sleep would allow sufficient time to go through and complete each stage.
But the amount of sleep you need depends upon your age as what sleep does to the body for each age.
For various age groups dividing them into 9 different ranges, the National Sleep Foundation recommends the following daily sleeping hours.
|Age Group||Age Range||Recommended Amount of Sleeping per Day|
|Newborn||0-3 months||14-17 hours|
|Infant||4-11 months||12-15 hours|
|Toddler||1-2 years||11-14 hours|
|Preschool||3-5 years||10-13 hours|
|School-age||6-13 years||9-11 hours|
|Teen||14-17 years||8-10 hours|
|Young Adult||18-25 years||7-9 hours|
|Adult||26-64 years||7-9 hours|
|Older Adult||65 years or older||7-8 hours|
People need sleep for different reasons at different ages s. For example, babies need half-day of their rest to boost growth and development.
Meanwhile, nowadays, people do not sleep as much as recommended, as shown below in the average hours of sleep.
|AGE||AVERAGE HOURS OF SLEEPING|
|5-12 years||9 hours|
|Up to 40 years||7-8 hours|
|55 -60 years||6.5 hours|
|60-80 years||6 hours|
THE SCIENCE BEHIND SLEEP
What Makes Us Sleep? The Sleep-Wake Homeostasis:
Two basic biological processes influence how we sleep. Both systems operate together to regulate waking and sleeping.
Process S: It refers to the buildup of sleep pressure. This builds up during wakefulness and decreases upon sleeping. The sleep drive reminds the body after a while to rest and regulates the intensity of sleep. Each hour you are wake, the drive becomes more robust, and after a period of sleep deprivation, you sleep longer. Both systems operate together to regulate waking and sleeping. Waking up for 16 hours or more builds enough sleep pressure to be resting around for 8 hours. It is characterized by slow-wave oscillations, compared to the excited, fast patterns of activity shown in REM sleep.
Process C: It regulates the timing of sleep. It refers to our Circadian Rhythm. Circadian Rhythm has an internal body clock fixed in our body that regulates our proper functioning. Like our own regular clock, this system also has 24 hours setup and operations.
The function of circadian rhythm is to regulate cycles of alertness and sleepiness by responding to light changes in our environment. A structure inside the hypothalamus (part of our hindbrain) called the suprachiasmatic nucleus is responsible for detecting artificial and natural light. As the natural light fades, the body will release a hormone called ‘melatonin,’ which stimulates tiredness. But when the sun rises, and there is natural light, another hormone is released that encourages stamina and alertness.
To have a night of better sleep, it is essential to respect the circadian rhythm. This is why we need to dim light or be in a dark environment to achieve better sleep.
Process S and Process C work independently, but we get our best sleep when coordination and the constant push and pull between them.
What Do the Body and Brain do during Sleep?
When sleep occurs, thousand brain neurons flip from sleep to sleep and transmit messages all across the body.
Many biological processes happen during sleep:
- The brain stores new information and gets rid of toxic waste.
- Nerve cells communicate and reorganize, which supports healthy brain function.
- The body repairs cells restore energy, and releases molecules like hormones and proteins.
|Heart Rate |
|Brain Activity|| |
|Hormone Levels|| |
|Muscle Tone|| |
The Sleep Stages and What Does Each Stage Do to the Body?
Sleep is divided into four stages. The first 3 stages are non-rapid eye movement (NREM), and the last stage is rapid eye movement (REM) sleep.
STAGE 1 nREM: Also known as Stage W or Wake stage. It consists of transitioning from wakefulness to dozing off. Also called an onset. The heart rate, eye movements, and breathing rate reduce, also the waves from the brain. Muscles get relaxed. This happens within few minutes.
STAGE 2 nREM: It’s a period of light dozing before the deeper one. The heartbeat and breathing keep on getting slower. So as the muscles relax more. Here your body temperature and eye movements stop. The brain activity also slows down further but with brief bursts of electrical activity. It is the longest of all the stages. You spend about half a typical night’s sleep in the “N2” phase when scientists think you file away long-term memories.
STAGE 3 nREM: Deep Sleep, Slow-Wave Sleep (SWS), and Delta Sleep. This occurs in the more extended periods during the first half of the night. This is the stage that gives the deep sleep for a refreshed morning the next day. In this stage, the heartbeat, breathing, and brain activity reach the lowest. Muscles relax at the maximum, and it’s difficult to wake anyone in this stage.
STAGE 4: The REM (Rapid Eye Movement) occurs firstly after 90 minutes of sleep. As the name suggests, the eyes move rapidly from side to side behind the closed eyelids. Breathing rate, heart rate, and blood pressure rise gradually. Mixed frequency brain activity starts closer to that seen in wakefulness. Most dreaming occurs during this stage, although some can also occur in nonREM stages. The legs and arm become temporarily paralyzed as it’s said to prevent physically acting up in dreams. Several studies suggest this stage links with memory consolidation. This stage eventually decreases with age, and more time is spent in nonREM stages.
These four phases are repeated all night cyclically till you wake up. For the majority, each cycle lasts about 90-120 mins. Few are waking up periods but are not remembered by the person the next day and are known as ‘W’ stages.
|Sleep Stages||Type of Sleep||Other Names||Normal Length|
|Stage 1||nREM||N1||1-5 minutes|
|Stage 2||nREM||N2||10-60 minutes|
|Stage 3||nREM||N3, Slow-Wave Sleep (SWS), Delta Sleep, Deep Sleep||20-40 minutes|
|Stage 4||REM||REM Sleep||10-60 minutes|
Children have a lot of deep non-REM sleep in the first several hours after they fall asleep. That’s why children sleep so profoundly in the first few hours after they’ve gone to bed and aren’t disturbed by anything. In the second half of the night, children are getting more REM and light non-REM sleep. In the early childhood years, sleep cycles get longer as children get older. In children aged three years, sleep cycles are about 60 minutes. By about five years, sleep cycles have matured to the adult length of about 90 minutes.
|5-19 years||Deep REM||Gets longer|
|2-60 years||Deep REM||Stable|
|60 and above||Deep REM||Gets lower|
BENEFITS OF QUALITY SLEEPS
- Improve hormones: Cortisol is your stress hormone and is lowered when you sleep properly. It also improves insulin sensitivity and testosterone levels giving more energy.
- Reduce chances of getting obese: Getting proper rest lowers the risk of getting fat. Study shows that adults who didn’t sleep correctly were at the risk of 55% and Children with an alarming 89% probability of getting above average weight. Poor sleep has been associated on several instances with a higher BMI and weight gain. Learn more about BMI according to age here.
- Improve learning: A study shows that getting the proper amount of sleep improves learning and memory.
- Lower the depression: Bad sleep increases the chances of getting depression. It is estimated that 90% of depression patient suffers from sleep disorders.
- Reduce craving & hunger: People who get more sleep naturally eat less. And when you don’t get enough sleep, it causes the irregularity between the hormones and causes the release of more hunger hormone the Ghrelin, and reduces the hunger-reducing hormone Leptin. So regularity is maintained between the 2 hormones if the amount of rest is sufficient.
- Increase the resting metabolism: The number of calories your body burns when you are entirely at rest is the rest of your metabolic rate (RMR). Age, weight, height, sex, and muscle mass are determinants of RMR. Inadequate rest and sleep may disturb your BMR, according to researches.
- Better physical activity: According to research, you may have reduced physical activity if you don’t sleep properly. Another study was done on 15 sleep-deprived men and concluded as the reduction in their physical activity.
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN THE BODY IS SLEEP-DEPRIVED?
The lack of sleep hinders memory recall in the brain as well as elevates stress levels. The brain becomes a closed box that doesn’t let any new stuff get inside it for storage and information. To make new memories initially. In short, a constant lack of sleep or a lower sleep quality leads to sleep deprivation.
Getting less than 7 hours of sleep regularly can eventually have a health impact on the whole body.
Signs of Sleep Deprivation
- Daytime fatigue.
- Frequent yawning
- Excessive sleepiness at random hours
- Poor balance
- Early aging
- Weird responses to daily life things (getting happy on a sad topic or no response)
While having quality sleeps bring about many health benefits; sleep deprivation causes the following downturns and strain to your health :
THE IMMUNE SYSTEM
Sleep deprivation may prevent the cytokines from working on the immune system. You might not be able to ward against intruders if you’re not getting enough sleep, and it would take you more time to heal from disease while increasing the chance of chronic illnesses.
THE BRAIN AND CNS
- Exhausted Brain
- Lack of concentration
- Prone to be moodier
- Compromised decision-making
- Suicidal thoughts
- Hallucination (long term)
THE DIGESTIVE SYSTEM
- Increased hunger
- Slower metabolism
- Low physical activity
- Prone to obesity
- BMI fluctuations
THE ENDOCRINE SYSTEM
THE CARDIOVASCULAR SYSTEM
- Poor sleep is associated with many diseases of cardiovascular origin
THE RESPIRATORY SYSTEM
- A feeling of the common cold
- Sleep apnea (nighttime breathing disorder)
HOW TO SLEEP BETTER?
Ever wonder why you can’t sleep? You can improve your sleep habits by taking some measures. First, make sure you have enough time to rest for yourself. You will find that you are happier and more productive each day with enough sleep every night.
1. KEEP A CONSISTENT SCHEDULE
Most individuals sleep less during the week and try to catch up on weekends by sleeping. In one study, participants who went to bed late on the weekends and had unusual sleep patterns reported terrible sleep. Try to go to bed and wake up around the same time each day. After several weeks, you may not even need an alarm.
2. RULE OUT SLEEP DISORDERS
Many common conditions can cause poor sleep, including insomnia, sleep apnea (check out a complete overview about sleep apnea and the treatments here), etc. Other common medically diagnosed issues include sleep movement disorders and circadian rhythm sleep/wake disorders. If you’ve always had trouble sleeping, it’s a good idea to visit your healthcare professional.
3. REDUCE DAY-TIME NAPS
While short power naps are helpful, extended or uneven sleeping might adversely affect your sleep during the day. Excessive napping throughout the day can disturb your inner clock, so you can fight to sleep at night. One study found that while napping at least thirty minutes can improve the daily function of the brain, longer naps can decrease the quality of health and sleep. So if you are having trouble sleeping at night, try to reduce the daytime nap.
4. OPTIMIZE THE BEDROOM AND SLEEPING ENVIRONMENT
Light and Noise. It is considered that the whole bedroom setup can make for a very effective good night’s sleep. Ensure that your accommodation is peaceful, calm, tidy, and fun. Some 50% of participants found enhanced sleep quality in one research of women’s bedrooms when the noise and light decreased. Try minimizing exterior noise, light, and artificial light from gadgets such as alarm clocks to maximize your bedroom environment.
Temperature. Like in summer or in hot places you could have experienced, it can be pretty hard to sleep on a decent night when it’s too warm. Other research shows that higher body and bedroom temperatures can reduce the quality of sleep and increase waking (1) (2) (3). Most people tend to be comfortable around 70°F (21°C), although their habits vary. Infants may benefit from a bedroom that’s one or two degrees warmer, up to 69 degrees Fahrenheit (20.5 degrees Celsius). Research suggests that babies achieve temperature maturation by eleven weeks of age.
Beddings. Your bed, mattress, and pillow can all significantly impact your sleep quality and joint or back problems. Other review reveals that new bedding can improve sleep quality. Additionally, inappropriate bedding can contribute to an increase in lower back discomfort. Attempt to replace your bedding — including your mattress — every 5–8 years.
5. PRACTICE PRE-BED ROUTINE
Relaxation techniques before bed, including hot baths and meditation, and breathing exercises, may help you fall asleep before bedtime. Relaxation practices have been found to improve sleep quality and are another often utilized technique for treating insomnia. Sometimes, a massage is beneficial. Try out different methods and see what works best for you.
Postpone worrying and brainstorming
6. DON’T DO LATE-NIGHT MEALS
Consuming a heavy meal before bedtime can lead to insufficient sleep and hormonal disruption. (2) Certain meals like low carb meals and snacks a few hours before bedtime, on the other hand, may be beneficial.
7. ADJUST EXPOSURE TO LIGHT ACCORDINGLY
Daily exposure to sunlight or artificial bright light can help improve the quality and length of sleep, particularly if you suffer from severe sleep problems or insomnia. Natural sunlight or intense glare during the day helps to maintain a healthy circadian rhythm.
However, reduce your nighttime exposure to blue light as it has opposite effects on sleep quality. Blue light — which is emitted in huge quantities by electronic devices such as cellphones and computers — is the most harmful in this regard.
8. THE USE OF SLEEP-FRIENDLY NOISES:
Yes! Sleep-friendly noises are a thing; check out what these are and how they can help.
White Noise has proven to be an effective method as a sleeping aid in a study. White sound masks other sounds efficiently, making them useful for people living in loud barrios. It can be solid and high-pitched, like a fan or a vacuum. Many people like to sleep in the soothing white sound of the low, medium, and high frequency sounds with the same intensity. It generates a blanket of sound that covers these abrupt consistency changes. Some studies have also suggested that white noise can help babies and young children fall asleep faster. White noise has also been shown to help inattentive children concentrate better in their classrooms.
Pink Noise. They are low-frequency, soothing sounds. They mimic constant rain, wind rustling through trees, or waves on a beach. A 2012 Journal of Theoretical Biology study indicated that pink noise lowers brain oscillations, increasing stable sleeping patterns. A 2017 Frontiers in Human Neuroscience study linked pink noise to deep sleeping. It helps to improve memory and helps you wake up refreshed.
Brown Noise. Brown (or red) noise has more energy at lower frequencies. with deeper strong bass notes than pink noise. Brown noise has been shown to help with relaxation, focus, and sleep.
Black Noise. Black noise is an informal expression for silence. It’s either pure quiet or partly silent with some sounds. Its pleasurable for people who prefer sleeping in
While perfect silence is rare, it can help you in sleeping. The most evidence support the use of White and Pink noise for better sleeping . You can download certain apps like NoiseZ which have different colors sounds. Or simply you can play videos available on the internet with such sounds.
9. THE USE OF NEGATIVE ION RING:
The negative ion can and does play a significant role in helping to sleep. It was proven in research in 2017, to be enhancing the blood circulation and oxygen flow to the brain can significantly impact sleep patterns, and the sleep outcomes will be better and more vigilant as they wake up. While sleeping wearing bracelets with embedded negative ions can also reduce the pains levels aiding better sleep.
10. LIMIT SCREEN USAGE
Consider imposing a “screen ban” on televisions, laptops and tablets, cell phones, and other electronic gadgets in your bedroom. There are many methods that you can use to reduce the blue light exposure at night, such as;
- Use of Blue light blocking glasses.
- Turn off the TV and any other bright light almost 2 hours before your sleep time.
- Download apps that reduce the blue light exposure to your devices to avoid strain your eyes and help you sleep early.
11. BE SMART ON YOUR NICOTINE AND CAFFEINE INTAKE
Avoid late-night Caffeine, alcohol, and energy drinks usage at night for better sleep. Caffeine can considerably impair sleep quality, even more so if consumed in high quantities late in the afternoon or evening. In one study, consuming caffeine up to 6 hours before bed significantly worsened the total sleep time by 1 hour. According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, caffeine’s half-life is up to 5 hours. So after 5 hours, you will still have 5 mg caffeine in your body if you have taken 10 milligrams (mg) of caffeine.
According to a study, most adults can safely consume 200–300 mg per day, and exceeding this amount can lead to sleep issues. If you are habitual or working late, try the decaffeinated coffee instead.
Though the phrase Having a nightcap is chic – it wouldn’t lead to a good night’s sleep. Alcohol is well-known for causing or exacerbating sleep apnea, snoring, and interrupted sleep patterns. So it is advised to avoid alcohol before bed, as it can reduce nighttime melatonin production and lead to disrupted sleep patterns.
Refrain from using tobacco at any time of day or night.
12. CERTAIN NUTRIENTS OR SUPPLEMENTS MAY HELP ACHIEVE A QUALITY SLEEP
There are many inexpensive ways to aid sleeping that can help with relaxation and improve sleep quality. They are;
- When having a good night’s sleep seems like a struggle, you may consider taking a melatonin supplement with a thorough examination and consultation with your physician. Melatonin is an essential sleep hormone that signals to the brain when it is time to relax and sleep. Its supplements are very famous as sleeping aid. Several studies suggest its usage for improvement up to 15% in sleep quality. It has no withdrawal effects, unlike other drugs. It has also been proven to treat jetlag.
- Magnesium: Magnesium, which is involved in over 600 chemical reactions in your body, can help you relax and sleep better.
- Ginkgo biloba: It also helps to relax and reduce stress.
- Lavender: Lavender is a potent herb with numerous health advantages. It can generate a relaxing and soothing effect, which can help you sleep better.
- Valerian Root: Studies indicate that valerian may aid in sleep onset and increase sleep quality.
Improving your lifestyle – sleep, diet, workout frequency, and intensity – can bring about considerable benefits in your physical and mental being – in short, happier! It’s easier than you think, try and see how you can get started!