Why Your Sleep Duration Is Not As Important As You Think It Is
Sleep is a natural, recurring condition of the body and mind, characterized by decreased awareness, marked by decreased sleep, decreased daytime sleep, decreased muscle activity and decreased physiological arousal throughout the night, and decreased interactions with environment during the waking hours. As sleep deprivation becomes more acute – due to acute sleep disorders such as insomnia, jetlag, or transient sleep apnea (a temporary state in which a person experiences sleep patterns similar to those of awake individuals), or chronic sleep loss resulting from various underlying conditions such as depression, alcoholism, drug abuse, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) – sleep quality declines markedly, causing sleepiness during the day and impeding performance. In such cases, effective management of sleep disorders is crucial for improving both quality and quantity of sleep.
There are three major components that affect sleep: external stimuli, internal stimuli, and the sleep/wake cycle. They can be divided further into two main categories: sleep apnoea and non-restorative sleep. Apnoea is defined as the inability to breathe while falling asleep, caused by a narrowing of the airways – either due to physical blockage, foreign objects placed on the mouth or neck, or increased soft tissue tension at the time of sleep. A less common form of apnoea is termed dyspnea, or “whooshing” – in which there is no noticeable airflow during sleep. In both of these cases, sleep will be disturbed by interruptions in the sleep/ Wake cycle.
Sleep stages are a sequence of brain states occurring during normal waking hours. During this stage, beta waves of delta and theta waves are achieved, as well as higher levels of theta, and alpha wave activities. The four stages of sleep are further subdivided into four distinct phases: light, rapid eye movement, deep sleep or REM, and non REM sleep or stage 3. Rapid eye movement sleep or REM sleep is the most complex and longest lasting, and is followed by non REM sleep or stage 2. Because of the various stages of sleep it is possible to dream or have vivid dreams during each of these stages.
Sleep deprivation can be damaging to the body, causing a wide range of different symptoms and illnesses. Not only do people suffering from sleep deprivation experience irritability, memory loss, blurry vision, drowsiness, frequent urination, headaches, dizziness, insomnia, irritability, mood swings, anxiety, depression, and loss of concentration, but their physical health deteriorates significantly. It has been found that sleep deprivation can also increase the risk of heart disease, diabetes, hypertension, stroke, and a host of other mental health conditions such as bipolar disorder, anxiety, depression, psychosis, schizoaffective disorder, post traumatic stress disorder, and schizophrenia. These conditions are generally caused by the decreased ability to cope with stress, changes in neurotransmitters in the brain, and constant exposure to disturbing mental health and environmental factors such as noise, caffeine, sugar, clutter, and much more. This can even have a direct effect on our bodily functions such as how our body temperature rises and drops, our blood pressure rises and falls, how our digestive system functions, how our muscles and bones are structured, and how our hormones work.
While some people may feel that sleep duration is all that is important when it comes to our physical health, the truth is that we only get an optimal amount of sleep every night for very few hours. Most people need a minimum of six hours sleep every night in order to maintain proper bodily health and alertness. Unfortunately, most people need eight hours sleep, which is not nearly enough. How can this be? The average human sleep cycle is about three and a half hours long, which means that for most people the minimum that they need is seven hours sleep. Obviously, this would not allow people to function during the day and handle their daily routines.
People who suffer from sleep deprivation will inevitably go through different symptoms such as irritability, loss of interest in activities they usually enjoy, difficulty concentrating, difficulty staying awake, and even depression. These symptoms can even lead to more severe conditions such as heart disease and diabetes. In order to get enough sleep, you need to follow a regular sleep cycle that is consistent with your lifestyle. If you are working, you need to go to sleep earlier so that you are able to wake up refreshed. If you are taking naps during the day, you must try to shorten your nap periods or take a nap immediately after you wake up so that you can fall asleep again without complications.