What is sleep?
Sleep is a natural periodic state of rest during which consciousness to the world is suspended.
Why do we need sleep?
Sleep gives your body a rest and allows it to prepare for the next day. It's like giving your body a mini-vacation. Sleep also gives your brain a chance to sort things out. Scientists aren't exactly sure what kinds of organizing your brain does while you sleep, but they think that sleep may be the time when the brain sorts and stores information, replaces chemicals, and solves problems.
How much sleep do we need?
The amount of sleep a person needs depends a lot on his or her age. Babies sleep a lot - about 14 to 15 hours a day! Most kids between the ages of 5 and 12 years old are somewhere in between, needing 10 to 11 hours of sleep. Some kids might need more and some need less. It depends on the kid.
Most adults sleep 7 to 8 h per night, although the timing, duration, and internal structure of sleep vary among healthy individuals and as a function of age. The more important question is: Do you wake up feeling refreshed and full of energy or not? There are some people who seem to feel refreshed after only 6 hours of sleep, where others need 9 hours. If you find yourself suddenly sleeping more than you usually do then you are probably compensating for a decreased quality of sleep.
Why is sleep important?
Sleep is a natural part of everybody's life. Sleep is something our bodies need to do; it is not an option. Sleep, like diet and exercise, is important for our minds and bodies to function normally. In fact, sleep appears to be required for survival. Rats deprived of sleep die within two to three weeks, a time frame similar to death due to starvation.
An internal biological clock regulates the timing for sleep. It programs each person to feel sleepy during the nighttime hours and to be active during the daylight hours. The light is the cue that synchronises the biological clock to the 24-hour cycle of day and night.
Sleepiness due to chronic lack of adequate sleep is a big problem and affects many children as well as adults. When we get less sleep (even one hour less) than we need each night, we develop a "sleep debt." If the sleep debt becomes too great, it can lead to problem sleepiness – sleepiness that occurs when you should be awake and alert, that interferes with daily routine and activities, and reduces your ability to function. Even if you do not feel sleepy, the sleep debt can have a powerful negative effect on your daytime performance, thinking, and mood, and cause you to fall asleep at inappropriate and even dangerous times.
Problem sleepiness has serious consequences – it puts adolescents and adults at risk for drowsy driving or workplace accidents. In children, it increases the risk of accidents and injuries. In addition, lack of sleep can have a negative effect on children's performance in school, on the playground, on extra curricular activities and in social relationships.
What happens if we don't get enough sleep?
It's easy to worry when you can't sleep. The occasional night without sleep will make you feel tired the next day, but it won't harm your physical and mental state.
However, after several sleepless nights, you will find that:
- you are tired all the time
- you drop off during the day
- you find it difficult to concentrate you find it hard to make decisions
- you start to feel depressed
This can be very dangerous if you are driving or operating a heavy machinery. Many deaths are caused each year by people falling asleep at the wheel while driving.
Lack of sleep may also make us more vulnerable to high blood pressure, obesity and diabetes.
Skipping one night's sleep makes a person cranky and clumsy. After missing two nights of sleep, a person will have problems thinking and doing things; his or her brain and body can't do their normal tasks nearly as well. After five nights without sleep, a person will hallucinate (this means seeing things that aren't actually there). Eventually, it becomes impossible for the brain to give its directions to the rest of the body without sleep - the brain needs to spend time in bed and catch its ZZZs!
How does sleep (or the lack of it) affect one’s health?
Insomnia has been associated with many problems, some of which are directly related to the individuals health in addition to significant social complications.
At its extreme, sleep deprivation can lead to death. In fact, a potential consequence of sleep deprivation is the famous death through overwork, known as "Karoshi" in Japan.
Problems with memory and concentration are among the most common complications and should not be dismissed as being unimportant. A common manifestation of this are the word-finding difficulties (when one can't find the words one is thinking of). Another manifestation is people also get irritable with lack of sleep.
Among the most pressing social complications is marriage related problems. There are higher divorce rates in people with sleep problems. On the other hand it has been estimated that the cost to society of sleep disorders that includes lost productivity, absenteeism at work, people getting into accidents, the cost of medications for sleeping pills or for stimulants amount to billions of dollars a year.
Labels: So You May Know