Are you a ‘Sleeping Beauty’?Naturely
I’m not usually one to stay up late at night now that my days of university are over. However, on those rare occasions I find myself surfing Facebook at 1 or 2 am, at least 20% of my friends are in an ‘active chat mode’. Since then, I’ve noticed many people, youngsters in particular, tend to stay up extremely late (whether they are studying, chatting with friends, or just watching Netflix, I’m not sure), some until 3 or 4 in the morning. This reminded me of a question one of my doctors asked me when I was a kid: “Do you know what makes a Sleeping Beauty? It’s nothing except a good sleep every night.” As time went on, I gradually began to understand what she meant, how sleeping was extremely important for us. And here are several reasons why sleeping is so important to human beings physically and mentally.
1. Healthy Brain Function and Emotional Well-Being
Our day to day lives are hectic, and our brains are worked out daily. Sleep provides our brains with the opportunity to rest and recover, preparing us for the day ahead. Sleep has been shown to improve memory as well as logical thinking, helping us recall greater quantities of information more quickly, and recognize patterns more effectively. You can also consider sleep to be a ‘learning reinforcement’, as it improves your problem-solving skills, learning and concentrating abilities, greatly increasing your overall productivity.
My mother once said to me ‘There is nothing that will destroy your health and your brain more quickly than sleep deprivation.’ Scientists and scientific results also share this view. Studies have proven sleep deficiency is closely linked to poor decision-making, problems related to controlling emotions and behaviours, and reduced problem-solving abilities1. Furthermore, sleep deprivation has been hypothesized to be linked with depression, suicide, and risk-taking behaviors, all of which are extremely detrimental to the individual2. Sounds extreme? Think back to the last time that you slept for less than 5 hours, did get angry or upset someone?
2. Physical Health
Sleep also has a critical role in the maintenance of physical health. Ask any professional athlete whether sleep matters to their performance, almost all of them will say that it is essential to get a good night of sleep. Many amazing and complex processes occur within our bodies when we sleep at night. A number of different hormones with various purposes are released during sleep, each to complete a specific process, helping our bodies to grow and repair themselves. One such example is that, whilst we are asleep, our immune systems also release a type of proteins called cytokines to help our bodies fight against inflammation, infection and trauma, particularly when we are sick. The technical literature around how our bodies function during sleeping hours is extremely technical and complex, however, it has established a link between time spent sleeping with particular health issues such as heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, stress and headaches.
For people who want to lose weight, getting sufficient sleep is definitely the better option than if you don’t. Short sleep duration has been discovered to be one of the main factors that involved in obesity and weight gain3. From my own experience, I gained more than 3 kg within a month when I was having a midnight snack and then going to bed at 2 in the morning. Sufficient sleep enables the body to process foods more effectively and reduce what is turned to fat (but cutting out late night eating also helps).
3. Daytime Performance and Safety
Getting adequate quality sleep is necessary to allow your body to function well throughout the day. I normally experience feelings of tiredness and drowsiness when I lack even just an hour or two of sleep the night before, which in turn seriously affects my productivity at work.
Microsleeping, which refers to brief moments of sleep that occur when you are awake, is more common when people have had inadequate time or quality of sleep. Because people are unable to control, and may sometimes even be unaware of it. It can become problematic and, in certain cases, dangerous, as it can happen to anyone at any time. It is estimated that, on average, 100,000 car accidents are caused by sleepiness every year, resulting in approximately 1500 deaths annually4. Furthermore, human error as the result of sleep deficiency has led to tragic accidents in both aviation and shipping. From missing out on important information during lectures, to potentially fatal accidents at the wheel of a vehicle, sleep deprivation often results in unideal and avoidable situations, as adequate rest significantly reduces the likelihood of such misfortunes occurring.
How Much Sleep Is Enough?
The amount of sleep people require differs from person to person; however, general recommendations regarding the hours of sleeping required for each different age group to function properly. This table below from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) outlines the recommended hours of sleep for each age group, endorsed by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
|Age||Recommended Amount of Sleep|
|Infants aged 4-12 months||12-16 hours a day (including naps)|
|Children aged 1-2 years||11-14 hours a day (including naps)|
|Children aged 3-5 years||10-13 hours a day (including naps)|
|Children aged 6-12 years||9-12 hours a day|
|Teens aged 13-18 years||8-10 hours a day|
|Adults aged 18 years or older||7–8 hours a day|
Creating a sleep debt during the week by staying up later and then using the weekend to catching up on sleep is not the healthiest sleeping habit. A consistent sleep routine is extremely beneficial to your health, and should be applied if possible. Consider starting a sleep diary to track your hours slept and quality of sleep. What are you waiting for Sleeping Beauty?
Hopefully this article helped you reassess the value of having a good night of sleep. Check out some of our other blog posts HERE, I personally recommend the related article “Sleep Hygiene Article HERE”.
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