Why Is Sleep so Important?

Because many of us (including me) often feel sleep deprived and tired throughout the day, I decided to write a post about why it is important to take time for a good night's sleep.


My parents and friends are often having trouble falling asleep or sleeping enough, let it be for work, general worries, or schoolwork. With everybody always busy it’s even more important that we take 8 hours per night to rest and reenergize.


There is evidence available that suggests that sleep deprivation might have worse consequences for health that cigarette smoking. Lack of sleep affects our mood, emotions and emotion regulation, memory and recall, concentration and motivation. It affects our appetite, willpower, and creativity. Our immune system functions more poorly when sleep deprived and that’s why we’re more likely to get sick.


Sleep is of critical importance for studying. Students often think they can pull an all-nighter and write an exam in the morning. The truth is, sleep will do you more good than active repetition of study material throughout the night.


When we sleep, especially during REM sleep, it comes to memory consolidation. This means that whatever we’ve learned that day will be consolidated, and our brain will make all the right connections between interrelated concepts. The knowledge will become more resistant to forgetting and will make more sense in the morning.


Sleep is especially important when we have large chunks of material to learn throughout the day because everything becomes clearer and easier to understand after we sleep on it.


That might be exactly why some might suggest you to sleep on your decision before making it. It might be that in the morning, you will see the facts more clearly and the decision will be easier and more certain.


Therefore, don’t forget to sleep well before important examinations!


Stages of sleep


Now that I’ve mentioned the fifth stage of sleep (REM sleep) I will briefly explain all five stages of sleep.


First stage is the stage of light sleep, it is a transition between awareness and sleep and you are easily woken up from it. If you were powernapping you’d wake up after stage two.


Stage three and stage four are the beginning of deep sleep; the body becomes less responsive to stimuli and it gets harder to wake up. During deep sleep stages, the body repairs tissues and muscles, and stimulates growth.


The last stage of sleep is called rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. During REM sleep our dreams are most vivid. Moreover, memory storage from short-term to long-term memory and learning occur during this stage of sleep.


Stages are changing from one into the other during the night and there are several cycles throughout the night. The first few hours of sleep are characterized mainly by deep sleep whereas early morning and the last hours of sleep are more commonly represented by frequent REM sleep stages. That’s why we are more likely to wake up from a dream in the morning – hopefully a good one!


Sleepwalking


Sleepwalking occurs during deep sleep, which means that we don’t dream during walking. We dream in REM stage when we can’t move because our bodies are paralyzed (except for our eyes).


It is preventable but more difficult to cure. The best thing to do if you are sleepwalking or live with somebody who is sleepwalking is that you make the living place safe; close the windows, lock the doors, and put away sharp objects.


Sleepwalking can be treated by psychologists and other scientists specialized in sleep disorders. Parasomnia is a sleep disorder that is characterized by sleepwalking.


Powernaps


Many of you may wonder whether powernaps really work. Powernap is a short nap lasting anywhere between 10 to maximum 20 minutes.


To be completely honest, powernapping is hard for me. But I recently learned that powernapping is a skill. You have to practice it for up to three months before you’re a skilled powernapper. When you start, it might be hard getting up after a 20 minutes nap. But that’s when you shouldn’t give up!


After practicing, you should be able to fall asleep immediately after you lay down and be able to wake up by yourself after about 15 minutes. 11 minutes is somewhat optimal for a powernap. Let me know if it works!


Circadian rhythms


Sleep experts also suggest to think about our habits and make a plan on when are we going to go to sleep and when do we have to wake up.


We need at least 7 hours of sleep; some people might even need up to 10 or 11 hours per night to feel rested. It’s best if we go to bed every day at approximately the same time and wake up as it fits us best. For example, go to bed every day at around 11 PM and wake up at approximately 7:30 AM. This will give you good 8 hours of sleep.


Another secret: If you fall asleep in less than 20 minutes, it usually means that you’re sleep deprived. Note to self: it’s okay to need some time before you fall asleep.


The effects of sleep deprivation


It’s essential to remember that sleep deprivation will have adverse effects on your cognitive functioning and performance even if you don’t see any impairments.


Researchers conducted an experiment to evaluate the effects of sleep deprivation. Subjects were called into a lab and were kept awake for 35 hours. Their memory, recall, and problem solving skills were then assessed. Participants were very slow to answer the questions and converse with researchers. They had a hard time remembering a set of words and found it harder to recall what they knew.


However, what I found most interesting is that they weren’t aware of their poor functioning. They assured the researchers that everything feels the same and that their thinking wasn’t impaired by sleep deprivation.


From this, I think it’s important to remember that even if we think that poor sleep doesn’t affect us it actually always has adverse effects on our functioning and cognition.


Driving when sleep deprived is also very dangerous although you might think or feel that your ability to drive remained the same.


This is just a few of my favorite facts and bits about sleep. Let me know if you have any further questions about sleep or experiences with sleep deprivation. How do you think it affects you? I’m curious to hear how you make sleep your priority.


XX, Ajda

©2019 by A Day In The Life.