We all spend a third of our lifetime sleeping. It means an average person requires about 8 hours of sleep per night. Numerous studies have shown that our daily performance and our physico-mental health depend on the quality of sleep we get every night. When we deprive ourselves with a good night’s sleep, we jeopardise our health with consequences that include fatigue, increased risk of accidents and poor decision making actions. It is also reported that insufficient sleep among the school-aged children increases the risk of poor academic performance and specific adverse health outcomes including increased obesity.
The unprecedented demands of modern life in conjunction with unhealthy changes in our lifestyle have also forced us to compromise with the amount of time we spend in our bed. It is therefore of paramount importance that we understand more about our sleep to appreciate the sleeping needs of our bodies and brains.
This blog will address the following questions:
1. What is sleep?
2. Why do we need sleep?
3. Why should we take a regular mid-day nap?
Finally, I will wrap this blog up with my conclusion.
What is sleep?
Sleep is a state our bodies and brains experience during which we close our eyes, however our nervous system (brain) remains very active. The sleeping condition makes our postural muscles relaxed and our consciousness remains suspended during that time.
We go through five stages of sleep during our sleep. This involves the stage 1, 2, 3, 4 and Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep. During REM sleep, we experience a quick and random movement of eyes and a temporary paralysis of the muscles. A complete cycle of sleep consists of all the above five stages. At the end of REM, a new sleeping cycle begins with stage 1. REM sleep is crucial for a rejuvenating feeling. REM sleep helps us consolidate a spatial or procedural memory, stimulate central nervous system development in infants, facilitate creativity and problem solving aptitude. REM sleep is also responsible for our intense dreams as our brains are more active during this stage.
Table 1 below furnishes the information about the quantity of sleep required for a different age groups to maintain a good health.
Table 1. Sleeping hours for different age group
|4 – 9 years||10 hours – 11 hours, 30 minutes|
|11 – 16 years||9 hours – 9 hours, 30 minutes|
|18 – 25 years||7 – 9 hours|
|25 – 64 years||7 – 9 hours|
|65+ years||7 – 8 hours|
Above Table illustrates that with age, the number of hours required for a rejuvenating sleep decreases. However, between the age of 18 and 64, we need about 8 hours of sleep every night which settles down to about 7 hours 30 minutes at the age of 65 and over.
Why do we need sleep?
We need sleep because our bodies and brains need to recover from fatigue and exhaustion. Sleep also provides our brain an opportunity to eliminate the built up waste from its cells and to repair them. A plethora of studies have given the scientists an insight into why a good night’s sleep has a rejuvenating impact on our general well-being. Following are the benefits of a refreshing night’s sleep:
1. Improvement in our cognitive performance
2. Increase in our alertness
3. Improvement in our memory and relaxation
4. Reduction in our stress
Furthermore, many studies have investigated the links between poor sleep and its negative effects on our health and the quality of our life. The overwhelming evidences suggest that we become susceptible to the following as a result of poor sleep:
2. Memory problems
4. Overweight or obesity
5. Hearing problems
6. Lack of concentration and interest
7. Hyperactive and irritating behavior
9. High blood pressure
A recent study has also found that a lack of sleep can bring about a behavioural changes in our genes. Sleep deprivation makes parts of our brain inactive while we are still awake.
In light of above studies, it is therefore critically vital to feed our bodies and brains with a sufficient sleep. The detrimental effects of deprivation of sleep can wreak havoc with our health and neurological processes.
Why should we take a regular mid-day nap?
A recent study demonstrated that a regular mid-day nap is vital for lowering the blood pressure and warding off heart attack. Furthermore, a daily nap of an hour or more also cuts the need for the blood pressure medication. Having mid-day nap significantly helps the people to lower their blood pressure during sleeping at night which is associated with better health outcome.
Napping during the day also helps boost our energy level and imparts health and cognitive benefits. Power naps reduce the sleep deficiency and improves the brain’s ability. Following are the benefits of the power nap:
1. We solve the problems creatively
2. We efficiently memorise verbally
3. We become effective in perpetual, objective and statistical learning
As reported, different length of a nap ushers in different benefits as shown in the following Table:
Table 2. Benefits of a nap
|Length of a nap||Benefits|
|20 minutes||Memory boost, mental alertness and motor learning skills enhancement|
|20 – 30 minutes||Memory boost and creativity enhancement|
|30 – 60 minutes||Decision making skills enhancement, improves visual memorization|
|60 – 90 minutes||Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep resets the brain itself and problem solving skills enhancement|
It is evident from above Table that our mental faculties certainly improve when we take a nap and we should incorporate this into our daily routine.
Sleep is an indispensable activity of our daily life. A continuous sleep deprivation or inadequate sleep can irreversibly damage our mental and physical health. One of the most significant benefits of a good night’s sleep is that it helps us consolidate our memory which becomes vulnerable during advanced age of our life. Memory related problems including Alzheimer disease and dementia can be delayed or prevented if we start to take our sleep seriously right from now. Furthermore, a satisfying sleep boosts our physical alertness and ushers in an immeasurable freshness to our daily life.
Let us sleep peacefully every night and give our body and brain a much needed rejuvenating rest. Our assets or our bank balance will not come to our rescue once we start experiencing the devastating effects of poor health and inadequate sleep. For me, my rejuvenating sleep is more valuable than my assets and I am sure most of us follow the same criteria for enjoying a good quality of life.