Sleep is one of the most important things we need in our day-to-day lives but somehow it always gets pushed aside for other priorities.
The amount of sleep that an adult between the ages of 18-60 years old requires is 7 or more hours a night! Despite these recommendations, around 33% of adults do not get enough sleep regularly.
Not getting enough sleep is linked to an increased risk of hypertension (high blood pressure), type 2 diabetes, obesity, heart disease, depression and a stroke.
Type 2 Diabetes
In a study involving middle-aged adults and older, those who reported sleeping 5 hours or less per night were 2.5 times more likely to develop type 2 diabetes than those who reported 7 to 8 hours per night.
This same study also found that middle-aged adults and older that reported sleeping 6 hours per night were 1.7 times more likely to develop type 2 diabetes than the group that slept 7-8 hours a night.
A 13-year study consisting of nearly 500 adults found that individuals that slept less than 6 hours a night were 7.5 times more likely to have a higher body mass index. This even took into account other factors such as family history, physical activity and location!
In a study consisting of 71,617 participants with a 10-year follow-up, those that slept 5 hours or less each night were 1.82 times more likely to develop heart disease.
The study also found that individuals that slept 6 hours or less each night were 1.30 times more likely to develop heart disease.
Short-term sleep deprivation has been shown to increase depressive symptoms while long-term sleep deprivation has been shown to lead to depression. The reason sleep deprivation can lead to depression over a long period is because it causes chemical changes to the brain.
During sleep, your body fortifies and strengthens your immune system.
Your Immune System Undergoes Three Processes During Sleep:
- Sleep has also been shown to help strengthen immune memory. What this means is that sleep helps reinforce your immune system’s ability to recognize foreign invaders.
- During sleep, your energy requirements are reduced as your breathing slows down and you don’t use as many muscles. This frees up energy that can be given to your immune system!
- Sleep also allows your immune system to engage in an inflammatory response to help repair and fortify components of your adaptive immune system (antibodies and T cells)
Melatonin helps keep this inflammatory response in check to ensure that it doesn’t cause damage to your body!
This inflammatory response has close ties to your circadian rhythm. From an evolutionary perspective, your body requires this inflammatory response but if it occurred when you were awake then it could harm you physically or mentally so the solution was to do it at night!
As we fall asleep this inflammatory response ramps up and as we get close to waking up this inflammatory response ramps down!
Sleep Plays A Very Important Role In Our Memory.
Memory consists of three components:
- Encoding: This stage is responsible for the conversion of thoughts or events into a short-term or long-term memory. At this stage, the image you are trying to remember can be distorted or forgotten.
- Consolidation: This stage is responsible for converting short-term memory into a stable long-lasting memory.
- Retrieval: This stage involves remembering the thought or event.
Sleep plays a very important role in the consolidation of memory. When you first wake up this is the ideal time for encoding new memories and is often why you feel the most productive in the morning!
As the day turns to night, your brain has to sit through all the events and thoughts you had throughout the day and determine which are important to keep. This is why memory consolidation happens at night!
Furthermore, memory also plays a crucial role in thinking and learning so if your memory becomes impaired then everything else will slowly become impaired as well!
There are five stages of sleep but our body cycles through four different stages. Throughout the night, we go through on average 4-6 cycles with 90 minutes per stage.
Stage 1: This is a drowsy period that quickly progresses to light sleep.
Stage 2: This stage involves light sleep with normal breathing. It lasts from 1 to 5 minutes and encompasses 5% of the total cycle.
Stage 3: This is a deeper stage of sleep in which your body temperature and heart rate drop. It lasts for 25 minutes in the first cycle and progressively lengthens throughout the night to encompass 50% of total sleep.
Stage 4: This stage of sleep is the deepest stage of sleep and is the most difficult stage to be awoken from. If you are awoken during this time you feel very mentally foggy which is known as sleep inertia. This is the stage where your body repairs tissues, builds muscle and strengthens your immune system.
Stage 5: This stage is known as Rapid Eye-movement (REM) sleep and is the time when you do most of your dreaming. Your body is paralyzed to prevent your actions taken in dreams from hurting you. The first cycle lasts for 10 minutes and the final one can last for an hour.
Is Sleeping In Complete Darkness Healthy?
Light used to be based on geographic location however, due to technological advancements we now have artificial light that can illuminate indoor or outdoor spaces at any time.
Exposure to artificial light at night can disturb sleep as our biological clock is very sensitive to light at night.
There are three ways that light can affect sleep:
- It can suppress melatonin (the hormone that is responsible for allowing you to fall and stay asleep) release.
- It can shift your circadian rhythm which causes you to fall asleep later and wake up later.
- The effects of exposure to violet or blue light at night can persist into sleep leading to shallower sleep! This means that your sleep quality is worse!
However, during the day natural light can improve your sleep! It can allow you to fall asleep earlier and improve sleep quality.
There are 2 important takeaways of how light impacts sleep:
- In our world, artificial light is very prevalent and this light at night can disturb our sleep leading to reduced sleep quality. Even if you get enough sleep it's about the QUALITY of that sleep.
- Natural light from the sun during the day can improve your sleep quality and allow you to fall asleep earlier in the night!
What To Do When You Can’t Sleep
If you can’t sleep then the most important thing to do is not force yourself to try to sleep. Forcing yourself to try and sleep will only make you stressed when you can’t.
"Stress and sleep go together as well as oil and water".
Here are some practical tips that can help you get to sleep. If these do not work for you do not worry everyone is different, just find what works for you.
Tip 1: If you don’t fall asleep after 30 then get out of bed. The last thing that you want to do is get very restless from the stress of not being able to sleep.
Tip 2: Limit your exposure to artificial light (including blue light) at night.
Tip 3: Don’t eat a large meal instead opt for a small light snack. Large meals (especially spicy ones) can be very hard on your digestive system late at night. Indigestion can cause sleep disturbances.
Tip 4: Drink a non-caffeinated herbal tea. Teas such as chamomile and fennel have been known to improve digestion and induce sleep. These teas are natural sleep remedies for babies.
Tip 5: DO NOT STRESS. Sleep will come naturally but stressing about it will only delay it more! If you are stressed from an event not related to sleep then it’s best to treat that stress.
Is Some Sleep Better Than None?
The answer is YES. Any amount of sleep is better than none. The only reason you might disagree with this statement is that you feel more tired after waking up.
There is a scientific reason for this!
If you feel mentally foggy after waking up it is because you woke up when you were in a heavy sleep cycle. Your mental performance may suffer for the first 30 minutes to an hour of when you awoke, however, the OVERALL benefit is better.
Sleep is necessary for your body to function and any amount is better than nothing. It’s preferable to get at least 90-110 minutes of sleep or less than 30 minutes.
It takes 90-110 minutes to complete 1 full sleep cycle. This ensures that you will not wake up feeling groggy.
On the other hand, if you take a nap that is less than 30 minutes you will not reach the stage of deep sleep. This will give you the mental and physical benefits of sleep without sleep inertia.
“A nap less than 30 minutes can be better than a cup of coffee”.
I Have Work In 2 Hours, Should I Sleep?
If you have work in 2 hours you should 100% sleep whether it be well-timed naps or sleeping for at least 1 full sleep cycle.
You have enough time to sleep at least 1 full cycle!
Should I Sleep For 3 Hours Or Stay Awake?
If you have work in 3 hours you should 100% sleep!
You have time for 1 full sleep cycle and several naps.
Now We Want To Hear From You!
Which statistic shocked you the most?
Did any of this information surprise you? If so, what surprised you the most?
Leave a comment down below!