Sleep is the normal and recurrent state of human beings that is accompanied by complex changes in the body’s physiology. Changes include hormonal fluctuations, coordinated brain activity, and relaxation of the musculature. Its exact purpose is unknown, but it influences every aspect of physiology, and is a contrasting state from wakefulness. Among vertebrates, sleep-wakefulness alternation is the most striking manifestation.
The benefits of sleep are numerous. It accounts for up to one-quarter to a third of our lifespan. A good night’s sleep is essential for maintaining optimal health, not only for physical functioning but also for mental clarity. Studies have shown that sleep affects everything from brain development to fertility. A deprived brain will affect fertility and memory formation. Sleep deprivation may also affect driving and other aspects of life. So, how important is sleep?
The brain has many functions during sleep, including the removal of toxins. Without sleep, the brain stays active, releasing chemicals that cause weight gain. The body needs sleep for cells to rebuild and repair themselves. Sleep also helps the immune system to work efficiently. Researchers spend waking hours studying the brain’s activity during sleep. Without sleep, the immune system is not able to react properly to germs and other diseases, which can result in depression and high blood pressure.
As we age, our sleep needs change. Infants need 16 hours a day, whereas teenagers need nine. Adults, on the other hand, require between seven and eight hours of sleep per day. While 7 to eight hours of sleep is generally recommended for healthy adults, it may be necessary for some people to get more than seven hours of sleep each night. While a regular eight-hour night sleep is beneficial for the body and brain, sleep patterns may be affected by illnesses or medications.
There is a direct link between REM and emotional regulation. During deep sleep, activity levels in parts of the brain involved in social interactions and decision-making are reduced, which may help maintain optimal emotional and social functioning during the awake period. Deep sleep is also associated with repetitive nerve-signaling patterns, which help encode memories and enhance learning. This is an important reason why REM is so important during sleep. In addition to helping us sleep better, REM is also essential for our mental health.
The REM and non-REM stages of sleep change during the human life cycle. Infants may experience six or seven sleep periods per day, with morning and afternoon naps, while children spend more time in the NREM stage. This patterning change may reflect cultural pressures and maturation. However, the effects of sleep on the aging process are still unknown. In any case, getting enough sleep is essential for healthy brain function. You need to get enough sleep to ensure that your body is functioning optimally.
The timing of sleep is controlled by the circadian rhythm. The hypothalamus contains special nerve cells called suprachiasmatic nucleus, which process signals from the eyes and help the brain determine if it is day or night. Once natural light begins to diminish in the evening, the body releases melatonin, a hormone that induces sleep. The body also produces cortisol, which promotes alertness and energy.