March 10, 2023

The Role & Importance of Sleep

Rest is essential for the proper functioning of our bodies. Sufficient and restful sleep not only protects mental and physical health, but also increases the quality of life. The activities we engage in during the day largely depend on what happens while we sleep, when the body works to support healthy brain function and maintain physical health. In children and adolescents, sleep helps and supports the growth process.

What is sleep?

Sleep is a physiological state during which many processes take place in the body. Some people neglect the importance of sleep and thus risk developing various health conditions.

Sleep is vital for physical and mental health because it improves the quality of life. Rest helps to strengthen and maintain the immune system. In addition to a balanced diet and exercise tailored to your personal needs, sleep is another basic element for maintaining health.

How much sleep is enough?

Most people need an average of eight hours of restful sleep in order to function properly. The important thing is to find out how much sleep your body needs and then try to reach that number of hours every night. As a general rule, if we wake up tired and feel a strong need to sleep throughout the day, it is obvious that we are not getting enough sleep.

The amount of sleep needed is different from when you were a kid to a teenager, with the recommended number of sleep hours being:

  • 10-11 hours for children
  • 8.5-9.5 hours for teenagers
  • 7-9 hours for adults

Biologically, the tendency for the human body is to adapt to the sun. Ideally, people go to sleep early in the night and wake up early in the morning. Usually, after sunset, we naturally begin to feel sleepy.

All about sleep stages

While we sleep, we usually go through three phases of sleep: Stages 1, 2, 3, and REM sleep, characterized by rapid eye movement (thus the abbreviation REM). The first three stages are called non-REM sleep (NREM).

Stage 1

This stage is characterised by light sleep, and we can be easily awakened by the slightest noise. We also experience sudden, involuntary muscle contractions called myoclonus, often preceded by a sensation of falling into the void. People who wake from this stage often remember fragmented visual images.

Stage 2

When we enter the second stage of sleep, eye movements stop, our heart starts beating slowly, the muscles relax, and the body temperature drops. Basically, the body is preparing itself for deep sleep.

Stage 3

During this stage, sleep is characterised by the lack of any eye movement or muscle spasms, which promotes deep sleep. Once we reach this stage, it is very difficult to wake up. People who wake up during deep sleep do not immediately adapt to reality and are most likely dizzy and disoriented for a few minutes.

REM sleep

Once you get here, the heart rate, breathing, and eye movements become faster and faster. The brain becomes more active, processing the things we learned during the day to help us form memories. Usually, during REM sleep we dream, and that’s why people who are awakened at this stage often describe bizarre and interesting stories.

What's the best side to sleep on?

Most people prefer three sleeping positions: either on their back, belly, or side. However, experts believe that the best sleeping position is on the left side because the circulatory and respiratory systems work best and the liver doesn't have to support the body's weight. If you're used to sleeping on your belly, it's good to know that it's considered the unhealthiest sleeping position for your neck and spine. When you sleep on your stomach, your neck position is completely unnatural, and it strains your spine.

The benefits of good sleep

  • It stimulates immunity. A well-rested body is much stronger and can better defend itself from infections and the common cold.
  • Maintaining a healthy weight. Studies have shown that people who sleep less than 7 hours a night tend to gain more weight and have a higher risk of obesity.
  • It improves mental activity. Chronic sleep deprivation can lead to long-term mood disorders such as depression and anxiety. Research has shown that many people with anxiety and depression sleep less than 6 hours a night.
  • Prevents diabetes. Scientists have found that people who sleep less than 5 hours a night have an increased risk of developing diabetes. Lack of deep sleep changes the way the body produces glucose.
  • Decreases the risk of heart disease. Lack of sleep over long periods of time is associated with increased blood pressure, an increased heart rate, and higher levels of certain chemicals that increase the risk of inflammation.
  • It stimulates fertility. Insufficient sleep over long periods of time can lead to fertility problems by reducing the secretion of reproductive hormones.
  • It improves memory. While we sleep, the brain processes and strengthens the memories we gathered throughout the day. If we don't get enough sleep, those memories won't be stored as they normally would.

Adopt a sleep schedule and stick to it. Try to fall asleep at the same time every night and wake up at the same time every day, even on the weekends. This regulates the body's biological clock, which will help you fall asleep easily and ensure you have a peaceful sleep.

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Meet Zoe

A passionate blogger and wellness enthusiast who's on a mission to spread positivity and inspire others to live a healthy, happy life. With a wealth of knowledge and experience in the world of health and wellness, Jane's blog is the go-to destination for anyone seeking tips, advice, and inspiration on how to achieve optimal physical, mental, and emotional well-being.
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