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Sleep: The Health Essential

By Anshum Joshi

Each of us sleeps every day, but we do not enjoy its benefits to the fullest. We often read and hear about getting at least six to seven hours of sleep daily, but we end up sleep-deprived throughout the week. Have you ever wondered why no matter how actively you work throughout the week, you suddenly feel drained out of energy and concentration during the weekend?

This happens when you do not get enough sleep during the week that is required by your body to recover from all the wear and tear of the day. Unfortunately, this condition is becoming common, especially among the working professionals as they are subjected to both physical and mental exertion throughout the week.

sleep benefits

What Is Sleep?

Even though we sleep every day, many of us cannot define what it is. Even scientists cannot define sleep, except for the explanation that it is a process where our body restores and renews itself. It also helps in processing experiences and storing the memories.

There have been experimental evidence that show sleep even improves retention power and reminiscence making us able to use our information as and when required. Sleep is not only an important part of humans' lives, it is also essential for the animals.

Stages Of Sleep

Sleeping is not a voluntary process where we can simply close our eyes and fall asleep. It is a natural process that happens on its own. There are two stages of this process: REM and NREM.

• REM (Rapid eye movement): This is the stage where we are believed to have dreams. This is characterised by rapid movements of the closed eyes. As we sleep, all the voluntary muscles of the body become inactive, except the eye muscles causing REM. It comprises about 20% to 25% of the sleep time in adults and about 40% in infants.

• NREM (Non-rapid eye movement): The NREM occurs in three different stages; N1, N2, and N3. N1 is the transition from the awakened state to sleep. In this stage, people do not often fall asleep. After this, comes the N2 stage which is considered as the true state of sleep and comprises 40% of the sleep time. N3 is the last stage of sleep and is referred to as the delta sleep or deep sleep or slow wave sleep. It comprises 20% of the total sleep time.

How Much Sleep Is Healthy?

Sleep is induced by the natural clock of our body which is programmed to have awake and sleep cycle. It is advisable to sleep between six to eight hours every twenty four hours. Along with the number of hours, sleeping and getting up at the same time every day improves the quality of sleep.

The sleep cycle is influenced by the cardiac rhythms and controlled by the brain neurons. Both the cardiac cycle and the brain neurons are affected by different external factors, such as physical and mental activity, light, heat, and temperature. This explains why our lifestyle affects our sleep.

Even alteration in hormones inside the body affects our sleep. While minimum sleep is essential, excessive sleep should be avoided as it can be harmful and induce drowsiness and sleepiness during the waking hours.

Sleep Disorders

Lack of sleep can cause an imbalance in the molecule level in the blood causing chronic fatigue, drowsiness during the day, and lack of concentration and attention. Besides these normal-looking symptoms, sleep deprivation can cause some actual disorders.

• Insomnia: This is the most common sleep disorder with almost 50% people suffering from it, whereas 10% suffer from chronic insomnia. It is the condition of having difficulty in falling and staying asleep.

• Sleep apnea: People suffering from sleep apnea experience pause or reduction in breathing while sleeping. Here the brain does not send a signal to the muscles to breathe.

• Restless leg syndrome: This is the condition when the person fees restless sensations in the leg with an urge to move legs. This is also referred to as nocturnal myoclonus.

Sleeping Through The Weekend

Stealing some extra hours of sleep during the weekend might be helpful to cover up the loss that happened during the week but it still won't recover the chronic sleep debt. Sleeping extra or simply lying down some extra hours in your bed during the day can help retain some extra energy for the coming week, but do not oversleep because it also has the same consequences.

Along with catching up on these extra hours, also learn how to sleep better and enough during the week as well. Some recent studies have shown that compensating on the lost sleep during the weekend may increase the mortality rate by 65% because the molecule level in the blood comes down to normal.

At the same time, it is essential to understand the difference between the quality and the quantity of sleep. Quality sleep is what matters.

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    Read more about: wellness health
    Story first published: Thursday, May 31, 2018, 21:00 [IST]
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