Despite the varying definitions of sleep, the state is generally defined by a convergence of observations satisfying a number of different criteria. The observable factors may include motor, sensory, or behavioral ones. Observations of sleep are easy to distinguish from other states of consciousness, though some criteria may be absent or not fully present in certain conditions. Read on to learn about the various ways sleep may affect your health. Below are some of the most common factors that are considered to be associated with sleep.
Sleep is a necessary part of the human body. One quarter to a third of our lifespan is spent in this state. In addition to helping us cope with daily challenges, sleep helps our brains function properly. While it’s easy to forget that we need to sleep, our bodies need it to perform well. A healthy amount of sleep is essential for maintaining our emotional health and functioning. While we’re asleep, the brain’s thalamus increases activity in areas that regulate our emotions, such as the amygdala, which controls our fear response.
The biological clock controls our growth, reproductive cycles, and aging. These biological clocks regulate our sleep and other physiological functions on a daily basis. In humans, the drive for sleep follows a similar pattern, as indicated by the characteristic posture of most mammals. Interestingly, sleepwalking in marine mammals may be due to reduced brain capacity. Although the brain is less responsive during sleep, the ability to move and think during sleep is still present, so identifying the underlying condition may be necessary.
While undergoing treatment for various disorders, sleep may be crucial in the fight against infection and inflammation. Cytokines in the blood are involved in fighting disease. They help our immune system to develop antibodies and destroy harmful germs. In addition, research indicates that sleep supports the heart, with many studies suggesting a link between inadequate sleep and an increased risk of heart disease. Therefore, it’s important to get seven hours of sleep each night. If you’re getting less than seven hours of sleep, your heart health may suffer.
The brain cycles through two stages during sleep: REM and non-REM. Each stage has specific neuronal activity and brain waves. People normally cycle through all four stages throughout their sleep, with REM periods lasting longer toward the morning. While REM sleep has been considered the most important stage of sleep for learning, non-REM sleep is more restful and restorative. And since non-REM sleep is much longer, you’ll probably spend more time in it during your restful hours.
Although most people experience some type of insomnia disorder, there are also ways to improve your quality of sleep and achieve a restful night’s sleep. Certain medications, such as sleeping pills, may help in the short term but may not be effective long-term. Another sleep disorder that can lead to better quality of life is called narcolepsy. The symptoms of narcolepsy are sudden and intense bouts of sleep during the day. They may last seconds or even minutes. However, there is additional testing necessary to determine whether narcolepsy is a cause of daytime sleepiness.