We are a society of high-activity individuals, with 16-hour workdays and chaotic lifestyles that leave us little time for sleep. Actor Thomas Dekker once said, “Sleep is the golden chain that ties health and our bodies together.” 

Quality Sleep

Quality Sleep

Turns out he is right! In fact, there is scientific evidence that supports the idea that your health is related to not only how long you sleep but the quality of sleep you get. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), studies have linked inadequate sleep with various disorders including impaired immune function, mood disorders, and loneliness, and it also affects your ability to manage stress and your athletic performance.

So what is the ideal sleep routine for quality sleep? The Sleep Research Society and the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, after evaluating over a thousand scientific articles on sleep, have determined the average healthy adult should get at least seven hours of sleep each night. When sleep drops below six and a half hours of sleep, your body starts to “malfunction” and starts to show signs of disorders in the body systems. 

But sleep duration is not the only factor to consider. Sleep quality matters. Dr. David Dinges, Professor and Chief of the Division of Sleep and Chronobiology in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine, believes you get a good quality night's sleep when you have uninterrupted sleep and can enter both non-REM and REM sleep, as well as when you sleep according to your body’s natural clock, meaning during nighttime hours.

  • Sleep improves your mood. Think about how much better you feel when your body is rested. You wake up feeling refreshed and have the energy to meet the needs of your day. When you sleep, your body conserves energy. Your caloric needs are reduced, and this gives your body a chance to recharge. When your body is sleep deprived, you are more likely to feel irritable and cranky, your ability to handle stress is decreased, and you feel less motivated to perform activities of daily living. 
  • Sleep boosts your immune system Researchers in Germany have found that sleep improves the immune system by improving the function of T cells. T cells are immune cells that fight pathogens such as cancer, HIV, and flu cells. When the body discovers an infected cell, the T cells are activated to attack the cell. But sleep is crucial for this to happen. During the day, your body releases stress hormones. These hormones diminish the stickiness of a substance known as integrin, which is what allows the T cells to stick to the bad, infected cells. However, during sleep, those hormones are decreased, and the stickiness of integrin is increased, making it easier for the T cells to attach to the bad cells, and this helps improve immune function.
  • Sleep relieves stress. Sleep lets your body rest, and when you are rested, you are able to think clearly and are better equipped to make good decisions. The science behind it is that cortisol levels are reduced when you sleep. Cortisol is the stress hormone, and your body releases it when you are in fight-or-flight mode. This makes your heart rate increase because it thinks you are engaging in battle. However, at night, as your body is in a resting state, cortisol is decreased, so your other organ systems return to a natural resting state, as well. Lack of sleep may cause your body to think it is constantly in a stress state, which keeps cortisol levels increased inappropriately. Over time, increased cortisol levels can lead to cardiovascular disease and weight gain. 
  • Sleep improves mental function. When you sleep, the brain removes toxins from your body. Nerve cells communicate with each other, which supports brain function. And your brain works to consolidate memories from your day. Interestingly, as you slumber, the areas of your brain that support emotional function have increased activity, so it makes sense that sleep deficiency inhibits these processes.

    This leads to memory loss and a host of other mental disorders including anxiety and depression. This is why quality sleep is important. Studies have shown that people who suffer from sleep deprivation have a four-times greater risk of developing depression, and sleep problems are found in around 90% of depressed individuals. Luckily, sleep can be improved by developing healthy sleep habits, which can lead to improvements in one’s mental health, including lowering the risk for Alzheimer’s. Sleep improves cognition and concentration.
  • Sleep improves athletic performance. Any athlete understands their body will not perform at its peak level without proper sleep. Sleep deficiency leads to slower response time and the inability to react quickly, not to mention the inability to think clearly. This leads to poor decision-making. Studies have shown that athletic people spend more time in the slow-wave sleep stage where their body begins to repair muscles and manage energy stores. Without proper sleep, your athletic performance suffers and you set yourself up for injuries. 

Additionally, your body is healing itself as you sleep. Toxins are released. Hormones enable you to breathe slower and help your muscles relax, thereby reducing inflammation in the body. Further, as the body detoxes, blood flow and oxygen are increased, and healthy tissue is regenerated. This new tissue heals damage to the muscles brought about by resistance training. 

Susan Worley from the NIH is convinced we have become busy to the point that we no longer value sleep and only accept the need to rest when we have no energy left to continue working harder or longer. 

Life is hectic with long hours at work and every other inch of the day filled with various activities, and our sleep has become an afterthought. However, studies continue to show that sleep is necessary for our bodies to function properly. Without it, we are at increased risk for mental, emotional, and physical disorders that not only impact our day-to-day functioning but will affect our survival, as well.

by for www.femalefirst.co.uk

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