The Importance of Sleep

When you close your eyes at night and drift into a deep, dreamless sleep, you’re taking part in a natural process that gives the brain and body a rest. It’s more than just a time to forget about the stresses of the day; it’s an essential part of maintaining good health.

Getting the right amount of sleep allows your body to function at its best, so you feel refreshed and alert when you wake up. It’s also important for a variety of mental functions, including memory and learning.

Your sleep cycle takes you through four stages, each of which is characterized by certain types of brain waves and patterns of muscle activity. Each stage takes between 70 and 120 minutes to complete, with most of the time spent in the deeper phases three and four of non-rapid eye movement sleep. During the second half of the night, the brain goes into REM sleep. Eye movements, breathing and heart rate increase during REM sleep, which is a period of rapid dreams.

In addition to regulating your circadian rhythms and the sleep drive, the body uses several processes during sleep to ensure that you get enough rest. These include energy conservation and storage, memory maintenance and repair, and immune system function. During sleep, the body and brain also produce hormones that regulate blood sugar levels, which in turn can affect your weight. The immune system is one of the most important aspects of good health, and a lack of sleep has been shown to reduce your body’s ability to respond to vaccines.

When your body isn’t well rested, you can suffer from a wide variety of physical problems. Your memory and concentration may suffer, and you’re more likely to experience mood swings and feel upset or angry more easily. Over time, poor sleep can lead to depression and anxiety disorders.

People need more sleep as they get older. However, the amount of sleep they need stabilises around 20 years old. People with chronic diseases, such as heart disease or diabetes, may need more sleep than those without such conditions.

Most adults need about seven to nine hours of sleep each night. If you’re getting less than this amount, talk to your doctor for advice. Addressing any underlying health issues or prescription medications that may be affecting your sleep can help you improve your sleep and give you the rest you need. In the meantime, take steps to make sleep a priority and try to fall asleep at the same time each night and wake up at the same time each morning. This will help your body establish a routine that’s easier to follow when you’re under stress. It’s also a good idea to avoid consuming caffeine, alcohol or sleeping pills before bed and to make your bedroom as dark and quiet as possible, with ear plugs or a white noise machine or app if needed.