we all know that sleep is a necessity and not a luxury, yet most of us tend to forget about the importance of getting enough sleep, simply because we think we can get a lot more done, if we sleep less. some of us think that sleeping is a waist of time and it is for lazy people. some even take proud in being sleep deprived. And to top this off, some still think not getting enough sleep and going to bed late is a sign of being young and lively.
It seems like everyday researches come up with even more reason’s that we, as individuals, regardless of our age and gender, need to take adequate sleep to function better in life. So let’s take a look at the science behind sleep and how it benefits us in life, then you can decide what is more important, going to bed an hour earlier or staying up late to catch up on projects or even worst brows social media.
Stages of sleep:
Sleep occurs into two categories, slow-wave sleep (SWS), known as deep sleep, which is further split into four stages, and rapid eye movement (REM), also called dreaming sleep. Most of the sleeping we do is of the SWS variety, characterized by large, slow brain waves, relaxed muscles and slow, deep breathing, which may help the brain and body to recuperate after a long day.
SWS can be broken down to four stages:
- Light sleep: we are half sleep and can be wakened easily. It lasts about 10 minutes
- True sleep: During this stage the heart rate and breathing slow down and lasts about 20 minutes.
- Deep sleep stage one: breathing and heart rate get at their slowest point and the brain begins to produce delta waves.
- Deep sleep stage two: this stage is characterized by rhythmic breathing and limited muscle activity. if we are wakened during this stage we seem groggy and confused.
REM sleep begins about 70-90 minutes after we fall sleep. This mode is bizarre: a dreamer’s brain becomes highly active, often more active than when we are awake, while the body’s muscles are paralyzed, and breathing and heart rate become erratic.
Once REM sleep ends you start another sleep cycle from SWS.
Some of the hormones regulated by sleep:
Secretion of some hormones like Growth hormone, Prolactine, and Luteinizing hormone, increases during sleep while secretion of other hormones like, Thyroid stimulating hormone and Cortisol decreases.
Another hormone that has been linked to sleep is Insulin. We all know that diabetes is a disease that effects production of Insulin. research has shown that adults who reported getting 5 or fewer hours of sleep a night were 2.5 times more likely to have diabetes compare to those who got 7-8 hours of sleep. Interestingly, people who sleep for 9 or more hours also have higher rates of diabetes. So too little or too much sleep, both can effect diabetes (1, 2).
The importance of adequate sleep:
Sleep improves memory:
When we sleep our brains are busy. It is during the sleep that what we learned while we were awake gets processed and retained into long term memory, a process known as consolidation (7).
Sleep increases production of growth hormone (GH):
GH is an important part of the body’s endocrine system. it is specially important in the growing child maturation. GH is released by the brain into the blood stream during sleep, specially stage 3 of sleep (SWS deep sleep) and is higher during the first few times you experience this stage each night (3). GH, in addition to promoting growth in childhood, helps maintain healthy bodily tissue even during adulthood. GH promotes a healthy metabolism (4), enhances physical performance (5), and may even help you live longer (6).
lack of adequate sleep causes inflammation:
C-reactive protein (CRP) is a blood test marker for inflammation in the body. CRP is produced in the liver and its level is measured by testing the blood. CRP is classified as an acute phase reactant, which means that its levels will rise in response to inflammation.
Studies has shown that both acute and short term partial sleep deprivation resulted in elevated CPR concentration (8).
As you already know, inflammation is linked to heart disease, stroke, diabetes, arthritis, and premature aging.
Sleep deprivation causes weight gain:
Sleep deprivation may alert the hormones that control hunger. One study had shown that young men who were deprived of sleep showed lower levels of satiety hormone, leptin, and increases levels of appetite stimulating hormone gherline (9).
Another way that sleep deprivation can cause weight gain, is simply by giving people who sleep less more time to snack and eat.
Sleep deprivation causes higher cortisol levels:
Cortisol is often called the “stress hormone” because of its connection to the stress response, however, cortisol is much more than just a hormone released during stress.
Cortisol is one of the steroid hormones and is made in the adrenal glands. Most cells within the body have cortisol receptors. Secretion of the hormone is controlled by the hypothalamus, the pituitary gland, and the adrenal gland, a combination glands often referred to as the HPA axis.
Because most bodily cells have cortisol receptors, it affects many different functions in the body. Cortisol can help control blood sugar levels, regulate metabolism, help reduce inflammation, and assist with memory formulation. It has a controlling effect on salt and water balance and helps control blood pressure. In women, cortisol also supports the developing fetus during pregnancy. All of these functions make cortisol a crucial hormone to protect overall health and well-being.
As mentioned few paragraphs above, sleep reduces production of cortisol. Studies have shown that individuals who were sleep deprived had elevated cortisol levels which decreased six times slower than individuals with adequate sleep (10).
If you are looking to live a happier and healthier life and you are wearing your sleep deprivation as a badge of honor, the quick answer is you have to get more sleep. fixing your sleep is one of the very first steps you need to take in order to live a happier and healthier life.
You might ask how To fix my sleep? here are my 3 suggestions:
- Schedule your bedtime: it seems like we have schedule for everything in our life, why not set a schedule for our sleep as well. Set a reminder on your phone to remind you of your sleep time 30 minute before bed time, so you can get ready and won’t forget to go to bed on time. Don’t live it to chance.
- mediate, write you journal or read a relaxing book before going to bed: spend some of the 30 minute before your bedtime to meditate or read a book that calms you down like spiritual growth books. writing in your journal also helps, as you can use it as a brain dump and empty all that is keeping your mind busy there and also set your self up for a more productive day a head, by scheduling your next day activities.
- No electronics in bed: You have heard this before, so I don’t need to explain the reason.
As always stay happy and healthy and snooze more 🙂