Sleep is very essential for our well-being, it affects almost every aspect of life from metabolism, to immune function, to mental health. It helps in regulating emotions, memory, and attention and learning. Sleep builds cognitive strength by repairing the cells.
Sleep occurs in repeated periods of NREM (non rapid eye moment) and REM (rapid eye moment). One sleep cycle lasts for 90 minutes. NREM 3 and NREM 4 stages are deep sleep stages, Deep sleep seems to be a time for the body to renew and repair itself. Blood flow is directed less towards the brain, which cools measurably. At the beginning of this stage, the pituitary gland releases a pulse of growth hormone that stimulates tissue growth and muscle repair. Researchers have also detected increased blood levels of substances that activate your immune system, raising the possibility that deep sleep helps the body defend itself against infection. You enter REM sleep about three to five times a night, or about every 90 minutes REM sleep stage is important for memory, during this stage the brain activity is heightened and new memories are strengthened.
Considering the mental health aspect, sleep and mental wellbeing are closely connected sleep helps in transferring information from the hippocampus to the frontal cortex, thus helps in finding solutions by merging the new information with the already existing information, it strengthened procedural memory and process emotional memory. When we sleep the brain is flushed with CSF (cerebrospinal fluid) that effectively cleans away the debris from the brain cells.
A proper sleep cycle of 7 to 8 hours is necessary to keep physical and mental health strong.
Lack of sleep is one of the main causes of 50 to 80% of mental health issues. Unfortunately, the modern lifestyle we follow nowadays may interfere with our sleep patterns or even sleep quality.
Sleep Deprivation can be partial or complete. Partial sleep deprivation is when you lose sleep for a number of nights in a row, maybe you are sleeping four to five hours of sleep from a couple of weeks. After two or three nights of short sleep, people show signs of irritability, lack of productivity at work, confused mental state, and lack of focus. Complete sleep deprivation is when you are unable to sleep the entire night(s). It may lead to serious mental health issues, road accidents, mood swings, and metabolic disorders, hallucinations, etc. Sleep deprivation has been linked to several well-known risk factors for heart disease, including higher cholesterol levels, higher triglyceride levels, and higher blood pressure. Insufficient sleep also causes higher blood levels of stress hormones and substances that indicate inflammation—a key player in cardiovascular disease.
The Internal Circadian clock promotes sleep daily at dawn when the absence of light enhances the release of melatonin hormone. Due to insufficient sleep, this internal clock gets desynchronize and disturbs the sleep-wakefulness rhythm. Sleep disturbances may increase the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, as suggested by a growing body of research. A report that pooled findings from 27 observational studies found that people with sleep problems were nearly 1.7 times as likely to develop cognitive impairments or Alzheimer’s as people without sleep issues.
Lack of sufficient sleep tends to disrupt hormones that control hunger and appetite, causing you to eat hundreds of extra calories per day—in particular, quickly digested carbohydrates, may result in weight gain and other metabolic disorders.
If you’re having trouble falling asleep, by following sleep hygiene you can improve your sleep cycle. Improving sleep is a day-long process that should start as soon as you wake up in the morning, don’t wait until bedtime to implement changes.
- Wake up at the same time, even on weekends to maintain sleep-wake cycle rhythm.
- Take some Sunlight, as Sunlight helps in decreasing the melatonin hormone. If sunlight is not available, sit near a white light lamp.
- Exercise: Daily and regular exercise improves the quality of sleep
- Eat light in the evening, avoid foods and drinks that could keep you awake. This includes alcohol, caffeine, tobacco, and spicy foods.
- Try not to watch television, work on a laptop, or watch youtube videos in bed. Go to bed only when you are feeling sleepy. Reserve your bed for sleep and sex.
- Do your routine ritual before going to bed.
- Avoid bright lights at the time of sleep.
- Do some mindfulness exercises to ease yourself into sleep.
- If you can’t fall asleep within 30 minutes, get out of bed, read a book, listen to slow music and drift back to sleep
- If you are unable to sleep due to some worries or automatic thoughts seek medical professionals.
Sleep is essential for the mind and body, so make sure you get enough of it.
Exercising regularly is one of the greatest gifts you can give to your brain. They promote brain health by releasing hormones like BDNF. After all, it’s up to you today to start making healthy choices. Not choices that are just healthy for your body, but healthy for your mind.