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“And he said unto them, Come ye yourselves apart into a desert place, and rest a while: for there were many coming and going, and they had no leisure so much as to eat” Mark 6:31.
With the busy schedules of today, it can be difficult to get a good night’s sleep. Most adults need 7 to 8 hours of sleep a night, so be sure to schedule that time into your day. Rest times are essential because they give the heart a chance to pump more easily. Sleep is also essential to the immune system. Without adequate sleep, the immune system becomes weak, and the body becomes more vulnerable to infection and disease. Sleep is also a time of rest and repair to neurons. Neurons are the freeways of the nervous system that carry out both voluntary commands, like moving your arm, and involuntary commands, like breathing and digestive processes. Sleep repairs cellular damage caused by our busy metabolism, and even grows new nerve cells in the brain. Many hormones, substances produced to trigger or regulate particular body functions, are timed to release during sleep or right before sleep. Growth hormones, for example, are released during sleep, vital to growing children but also for restorative processes like muscle repair.
Sleep helps to organize memories, solidify learning, and improve concentration. Proper sleep, especially sleep where you are actively dreaming (REM sleep), regulates mood as well. Lack of sleep can make you irritable and cranky, affecting your emotions, social interaction, and decision making. Sleep deprivation also affects motor skills, enough to be similar to driving while drunk if seriously sleep deprived. Driver fatigue, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, causes over 100,000 accidents and 1500 deaths each year.
There are signs that one may be suffering from sleep deprivation. For instance:
a) increased clumsiness
b) difficulty making the right decisions
c) feeling especially moody or irritated
Scientific American provides a detailed description of brain activity during the stages of sleep and wakefulness. The sleep stages and brain activity are:
Stage 1 (Drowsiness) – It last about five or ten minutes. Eyes move slowly under the eyelids, muscle activity slows down, and you are easily awakened.
Stage 2 (Light Sleep) – Eye movements stop, heart rate slows, and body temperature decreases.
Stages 3 & 4 (Deep Sleep) – You’re difficult to awaken, and if you are awakened, you do not adjust immediately and often feel groggy and disoriented for several minutes. Deep sleep allows the brain to go on a little vacation needed to restore the energy we expend during our waking hours. Blood flow decreases to the brain in this stage, and redirects itself towards the muscles, restoring physical energy. Research also shows that immune functions increase during deep sleep.
REM sleep (Dream Sleep) – At about 70 to 90 minutes into your sleep cycle, you enter REM sleep. You usually have three to five REM episodes per night. This stage is associated with processing emotions, retaining memories and relieving stress. Breathing is rapid, irregular and shallow, the heart rate increases, blood pressure rises.
6 Signs That You Need More Sleep: (click each sign to find out more)
Research presented at the 2010 meeting of the Society for the Study of Ingestive Behavior linked little shuteye with higher levels of the hormone ghrelin, the same one that triggers hunger, HuffPost reported.
This uptick in the hunger hormone seems to lead to not only increased snacking, but also a hankering for high-carb, high-calorie foods (i.e., processed junk foods), according to a 2004 study, which may help explain why people who don’t get enough sleep are at a greater risk of obesity.
“It’s almost as though, without sleep, the brain had reverted back to more primitive patterns of activity, in that it was unable to put emotional experiences into context and produce controlled, appropriate responses,” Matthew Walker, senior author of the study, said in a statement.
Too few hours in dreamland has been linked to a whole host of cognitive problems, like difficulty focusing and paying attention, confusion, lower alertness and concentration, forgetfulness and trouble learning, WebMD reports.
So next time you find yourself forgetting where you put your keys, consider how much sleep you got last night.
Researchers don’t know exactly why, but sleepy people seem to “have slower and less precise motor skills,” Clete Kushida, M.D., Ph.D., director of Stanford University Center for Human Sleep Research told Prevention. Reflexes are dulled, balance and depth perception can be a little wonky and since you may also have trouble focusing, reaction time can be slowed, meaning you can’t quite catch the egg carton before it hits the floor.
Both men and women who don’t get their 40 winks experience a decreased sex drive and less interest in doing the deed, WebMD reports. A lack of sleep can also elevate levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, according to Everyday Health, which doesn’t help in the bedroom either.