There are several factors that are responsible for our bodies to fall asleep and wake up. We possess an internal clock – a 24-hour sleep cycle regulated by hormones. This is known as the circadian rhythm.
This clock is essentially regulated by two separate processes. One is a sort of pressure that urges you to fall asleep every hour that you are awake, around the time of late evening – a compound known as adenosine is responsible for creating the urge. An increasing amount of this compound signals you to fall asleep, it then breaks down while you are asleep.
The second process is under the control of the aforementioned circadian rhythm – it becomes in sync with specific cues from the environment. These cues can include the amount of light, darkness, temperature, etc and all of these determine how sleepy you feel.
There is another compound that is released which helps your body become drowsy and prepare for sleep – melatonin. A peak in this hormone is what researchers believe is crucial in preparing your body for sleep.
Some factors such as artificial light late in the night disrupt the production of such compounds and make it difficult to fall asleep.
Another compound, cortisol, is released towards the morning that signals all the other hormones in the body to help prepare you to wake up.
The natural schedule and rhythm of our internal clock can vary with age – it is noted that teens often go to sleep much later than children that are younger and adults that are older than them. This is due to the fact the release and thereby the attainment of the peak of melatonin in teenagers is later than that in adults and children.
Sleep plays a very essential role when it comes to maintaining health and well-being in our lives. Receiving good amounts of sleep regularly benefits us in the long run by protecting our physical and mental health along with ensuring our safety and promoting our quality of life.
There are several detrimental effects linked with not receiving a good night’s sleep for a prolonged duration of time.
Here are three of the most important reasons why sleep is required for the proper functioning of our mind and body.
Healthy Brain Function and Emotional Well-Being
Sleep enables the brain to function properly, prepare itself for the next day, and form pathways for absorbing, processing and retaining information.
Cutting short on sleep often interferes with all aspects of daily life such as work, education, and social interactions. It hampers the processes of learning, focussing, and relating. It becomes hard to understand and empathize with those around us and we tend to feel cranky, upset, or anxious. Those who do not sleep well take longer to finish tasks, have a slower response time and tend to make more mistakes.
Research reveals that a good night’s sleep can boost many several functions of the brain and immensely aids in the process of learning. It helps you to enhance problem-solving skills, be creative, pay attention, and make well-informed decisions.
There are also some studies that suggest that the deficiency of sleep can cause trouble in controlling emotions and behaviour and the ability to cope with change. It is also linked with certain mental health issues such as anxiety, chronic stress, depression, and also indulging in addictive practices. Sleep deficiency may also lead to mood swings and kill initiative and motivation.
It is very likely for those who do not receive proper sleep to feel weary and tired all day. It negatively impacts alertness and hampers the ability to feel refreshed.
Sleep is an important factor when it comes to our physical health. While we sleep, various processes are ongoing in our body such as hormone production, assimilation of food, healing and repairing damaged tissues, maintaining fertility, brings about puberty, etc. Not giving our body adequate rest can hamper such processes and lead to unwanted and detrimental effects in the long run.
Sleep deficiency is associated with an increased risk of chronic illnesses such as heart and kidney disease, elevated blood pressure, diabetes, and stroke.
It can also increase the risk of obesity – a small experiment conducted among teenagers revealed that the sacrifice of every hour of sleep increased the chances of them becoming obese by 2%.
Some hormones produced during the while that we sleep include the ones that make us feel hungry and full. When this balance is not achieved, we often lose our appetite and that reduces our intake of nutrition or makes us excessively hungry and overeat.
Since insulin production and reactivity in our body is dependent on sleep, those who do not get adequate amounts of rest are more prone to suffer from diabetes.
The hormone that is responsible for growth is produced while we sleep. It helps in increasing bone and muscle mass and repairs cells and damaged tissues.
Sleep also supports healthy growth and development. Deep sleep triggers the body to release the hormone that promotes normal growth in children and teens. This hormone also boosts muscle mass and helps repair cells and tissues in children, teens, and adults. Sleep also plays a role in puberty and fertility.
Additionally, our immune system is heavily reliant on good sleep to function properly. Sleep deficiency weakens our immune system and thereby hampers its ability to ward off infections caused by pathogens.
Daytime Performance and Safety
If you lose an hour or two’s worth of sleep every day for a while, it will accumulate to as if you have not slept at all for a whole day. This can be very dangerous.
It may lead you to take several short naps throughout the day which can seriously hamper productivity.
Or, it may lead you to microsleep – moments when your brain nearly dozes off and you are not aware of your sleep. It can affect how you absorb information.
There are many risks associated with the lack of sleep and there are several who do not even realize that they are suffering from it.
It’s very common not to notice how adversely sleep deficiency can affect our daily routines – we go on leading our lives by believing the myth that we can function just as well by skimping on sleep.
Believing this is the most dangerous one of them all – it literally puts us at risk when it comes to performing daily tasks.
For instance, somebody who is low on sleep and feels drowsy may feel like he is able to drive – but the fact of the matter is that drowsiness has brought about many more accidents than drunkenness.
It is not just drivers who are affected by the poor quality of sleep – professionals in all sorts of fields such as lawyers, healthcare workers, mechanics – can all be sufferers.
Sleep deficiency is known to cause large-scale damage by increasing the frequency of human error that can thereby lead to tragic accidents.
“Sleep is that golden chain that ties health and our bodies together” – Thomas Dekker
Written by: Jahnabee Adhikari
Jahnabee is a part-time blogger, full-time dog lover. She believes that writing actually possesses the potential to change the world. She can be often found fantasizing about poetry or buried nose-deep in a Sudha Murthy novel.