Greetings, dear readers
Most true insomniacs would probably agree with the statement that quality sleep is a luxury. One that many people do not acknowledge, let alone appreciate. For those who wake up well rested, it may be hard to understand those that sleep for longer yet still have a hard time getting through the day with their eyes open. Some perceive this constant exhaustion as a sign of laziness. Others may consider the possibility of health disorders being involved. Whether those people are wrong or right, it does not change the fact that balanced sleep is important for everyone.
There are many myths and facts related to sleep and just as many sources of information that strive to differentiate between the two. With that being said, some aspects of sleep and its effect on the human body can be understood by using common sense. It makes sense that the number of hours needed to recuperate vary from one person to another and that this period of time is influenced by their age, level of activity and the amount of mental stress that they have endured during their waking hours. For example, a woman training for a marathon would probably need more sleep than a man working part time in a relaxed office environment. Or a newborn baby might spend more time sleeping than a full grown adult. In short, sleep is relative.
The difference between getting enough sleep to survive on and sleeping the right amount of hours in order to function in an optimum physical, mental and emotional state is vast. After resting well, an individual would usually be better at getting more done during a shorter span of time, than one who has worked for longer hours after getting less sleep. Many have become so accustomed to being sleep deprived that they have forgotten what being truly wide awake and fully functional is supposed to feel like. Loss of quality sleep can compromise the cardiovascular and immune system of the body as well as its ability to balance energy throughout the hours spent awake. Interrupted sleep cycles, particularly during deep sleep and REM stages, can have long and short term effects on the body. Deep sleep allows the body to repair or regenerate itself and accumulate energy for the day ahead. REM or Rapid Eye Movement sleep normally occurs a short time before waking up and helps improve mood and mental balance.
Numerous studies have revealed the positive effects of having a balanced sleep cycle, which allows an individual time to pass through its stages at a natural pace and reap the most benefit from doing so. Those that have balanced sleep often notice various psychological and physical improvements, such as:
- Memory retention via the process of consolidation, which strengthens memories, especially those involving newly learnt information
- Lowered blood pressure and reduced inflammation, since being awake places stress upon the body whereas sleep allows cells time to recover
- Increased creativity, due to memories and any emotions attached to them being re-affirmed and re-organised
- Enhanced athletic performance as a result of less daytime fatigue and more stamina
- Extended attention span and ability to learn
- Increased weight loss – more sleep encourages the body to shed fat whereas less sleep causes loss of muscle mass. Staying up when tired can stimulate hormones that boost the appetite
- Reduced stress levels
- Positive changes in skin condition and prevention of premature ageing
- Better reaction time and decision making
- Emotional stability, which controls anxiety and reduces the risk of developing depression and other mental disorders
- Increased quality of life as a result of the aforementioned benefits
Some people make the mistake of believing that lost sleep can be completely reclaimed over the weekend. While it may be possible for them to catch up on a few hours, their sleep cycle would need to be balanced throughout the week for them to achieve the best results. Forming habits such as getting regular exercise, sleeping in a cool, quiet and dark room, striving to drink and eat less right before going to bed, and deciding on set sleeping and waking times during the week can correct an individual’s biological clock and help improve the quality of their sleep.
We hope that this information has benefitted you, our dear readers, and we would love to hear from you. Comments, questions and weekly topic suggestions are always welcomed and greatly appreciated.
Thank you for reading!
The Pure Therapy Team