Sleep and Health

Sleep is of two types – Rapid Eye Movement (REM) and Non-Rapid Eye Movement (Non-REM).  During sleep, three to five cycles of REM – dreams occur at this time, and Non-REM – the deep sleep phase, are repeated ending with REM.

Sleep is an integral part of everyone’s life, a very important factor that determines our health and overall well-being. Yet it is one of the most neglected aspects until we reach a point where our body starts to show signs and symptoms of sleep deprivation. Well, we can’t blame anyone for that since it was found only in the 1950’s that sleep was not just a dormant part of our being but a fairly active phase during which our brains work to fix, correct and rejuvenate our body for a fresh beginning the next day.

So what counts as a good night’s sleep? Quality sleep is estimated to be between 7 to 8 hours of sleep every night. So if all you’re managing is 6 hours, or are sleeping for 10 hours but constantly waking up(disturbed sleep), then that doesn’t count either. Poor quality of sleep has been linked to causing some serious diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, obesity, and hypertension. It also causes deterioration of cognitive and motor skills.

Unfortunately, sleep deprivation and disturbed sleep is a very real problem today. According to the Institute of Medicine, nearly 1 in every 5 indian sleeps less than 7 hours per night and close to 70 million suffer from chronic sleep disorder.

Impact of sleep deprivation on health

Inadequate sleep and extended hours of sleep are responsible for many diseases such as cardiovascular diseases, it also results in impaired brain functions, high blood pressure, increased insulin and blood sugar levels. A study done using data from the First National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey over a period of 10 years depicted that shorter sleep durations have direct association with diabetes. Chronic short sleep brings about insulin resistance in the body thereby leading to diabetes as the pancreas is unable to bear the load of insulin resistance.

Another report published by Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry studied a sample of 11,329 adults to examine the relation between insomnia and depression and concluded that insomnia indeed has a significant effect on the brain health thereby resulting in depression in a significantly higher number of participants.

Lack of sleep particularly affects children and young adults and results in weight gain, as published by a study done by Obesity Society. Along with this, it was noted that chronic sleep deprivation would also lead to fatigue, therefore, less physical activity in children. Eventually, this leads to more screen time and lesser participation in sports.

Ways to combat lack of sleep

There are over a dozen researches to back the fact that insufficient sleep has a huge negative impact on one’s health. Therefore, it is only wise to take charge of the health before it’s too late. Some tips to help in managing sleep deprivation –

  • Our body has its own internal clock called circadian rhythm that governs the quality and quantity of sleep we get. It can get easily disturbed by external factors such as changing bedtimes, excess caffeine close to sleep time, etc. Stir clear of such disruptors and stick to a routine.
  • One should make sure the room cozy and comfortable, without any noise or light, for a peaceful sleep.
  • Nicotine and caffeine act as stimulants which should be avoided close to sleep time.
  • Avoid any intense exercise right before sleep time as well.

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