How important is sleep?
As long as we get sufficient amount of sleep and sleeping is refreshing, we do not pay any attention to it. When you just can’t fall asleep or stay asleep for the whole night, it starts to have a different interest.
There are many people who are struggling with too little sleep and many things feel more important than our sleep. It would be good to divide each day into three parts. First part is for working and making a living, second part for hobbies and social life, third part for sleeping. The formula is 3 x 8 hours = 24 hours. That is a recipe for a good life and that formula should be reviewed as a guideline. The right balance is important. Insomnia is a commonly recognized problem. The situation is troublesome even if a person sleeps and doesn’t remember middle of the night awakenings but does not feel refreshed at morning. Falling asleep is not always easy, even if you really want to sleep.
One insomnia study participant wanted to put in words the feelings of loneliness and anxiety caused by insomnia: the lack of sleep pushed me into the spiral of tiredness, which diminished my self-esteem and reduced feelings of pleasure in everyday life.
He tells about the functional insomnia of the working age, functional insomnia is not related to any disease or health problem. Instead, stress, worrying, sudden life changes or other external factors prevent you from falling asleep in the evening or wake you up too early in the morning.
Participant felt that insomnia caused embarrassment because a well-performing, successful person is expected to be able to control his sleep and well-being as well. Therefore, he was ashamed to talk about it for a long time. Many people of us who worry about all kinds of things, have a lot in common, even if the outcome is different. My own perspective and experience led to sleep apnea, which is just one of the results of neglecting myself.
Importance of sleep
With sleep it is like with health – you usually don’t appreciate it enough if it has not been lost or at least lost part of it. The sleep – either lack of it or it’s poor quality – tells us that we have something wrong in our lives. Pain, too much work, unemployment or other life concerns that will not leave you alone at night. Short-term medication can sometimes be beneficial, but sleeping pills can not treat insomnia or other sleep disorders primarily or for a very long time. Sleep quality will improve when it comes to finding out what causes insomnia.
Attitude towards sleep and insomnia is often discouraging. Many scholars and professionals think that the true meaning of sleep is not sufficiently respected or appreciated. Insomnia and sleep disturbances may also just be considered as a small problem – who would not sleep poorly at least sometimes? However, sleep is as important as adequate nutrition and exercise. The lack of sleep can degrade quality of life quickly and people just can’t function properly without sleep. Health recommendations urges you to exercise and eat properly, but thirdly, you should really get adequate amount of sleep too.
Generally people may think that productive and energetic person may overcome easily someone that likes to sleep and that sleeper might be considered as a lazy person. Waking up early and coping with just a few hours of sleep has a long history in our culture.
On the other hand, the importance of sleep is clearly emerging. For example, in 2017, actor Gwyneth Paltrow declared her “clean sleep” philosophy, according to which a suitable amount of sleep for beautiful women would be nine hours. At 2017 an international mattress company hired as their representative pregnant tennis player Serena Williams for their “This Sleep Is Power” campaign. Williams stated that specific mattress was a prerequisite for her success. Only this particular mattress adapts perfectly to the shape of her body and relieves pressure, so she always sleeps calmly and is ready to overcome all adversity both on and off the court. The tennis star assures that she has been sleeping on that mattress for the past decade, which means that the mattress can certainly be regarded as one of the secrets of her success!
In order to be able to live a good life, it is worthwhile to understand your insomnia or sleep disorder and the importance of sleep. At the stage when you notice problems with your sleep, you should start keeping a sleep diary, which records issues of sleep for a couple of weeks. We can provide you with a sleep diary. Get it from here. Usually, our sleep is compromised by things that have not been resolved during the day. Work, unemployment, or personal matters can easily take away a night’s sleep. With help of the sleep diary, it is good to try to discover sleep problems with an expert if the situation persists.
People at work may face things they can’t solve, but try to cope with them. And with perseverance, trying even harder while getting more and more tired. When the necessary extra time is taken from sleep, a vicious cycle is followed and it can lead to burnout, which eventually develops into depression. The lack of sleep affects everyday life, job performance and the desire of life, and ultimately depression makes sleeping more difficult. If you are trying to deal with insomnia, exhaustion and depression with alcohol, the situation usually only gets worse. At some point, the cycle must be ended.
A good night’s sleep is the focal point of healthy and full life, supported by healthy nutrition and adequate physical activity.
For example for athletes, it is important to recover from training, rest sufficiently and to calm down before big contests. – Prepare mentally and physically. A good night’s sleep is an essential part of this preparation. Why would’t we normal people do the same? Would’t it be possible to prepare for each day by sleeping well? People who live up in the north know that the daylight might be scarce. Then it feels particularly important to sleep well and gather strength.
Sleep restores, revitalizes and cleanses
Sleep is essential to the human body. Sufficient and good quality sleep is a source of health. Every person needs sleep and dies if he can’t sleep. Our performance levels deteriorates more, the longer we are awake. Sleep restores from a day-to-day stress, and the next day’s functional capacity requires a good night’s sleep. If a person does not sleep enough, he is tired and irritable and is not capable to perform his duties.
Sleep maintains the body’s defense system and helps to suppress inflammations that threaten the body. While getting enough sleep, wounds and the various tissue injuries will also heal better.
One of the professors of Clinical Molecular Medicine says in her article how she started to understand the unique meaning of sleep. She received a great lesson while listening to Professor Maiken Nedergaard telling about how much more fluid is flowing through the brain than the kidneys when a person sleeps. The lecturer had explained how the cerebral spinal fluid flows through the brain and that the brain cleanses itself through fluid flux. This mechanism is called a glymphatic system. The lecturer had also demonstrated the situation visually: “As the research object falls asleep, fluid flows as waves through the brain. Here’s the real meaning of sleep. “
The professor who participated in the conference writes: “”I stared at the data and fell in love with its novelty.” It was easy to understand the importance of leaching metabolites out from the brain. “This wonderful cleansing mechanism requires that the sleeper is lying down. “It seemed unbelievable that such anatomical macroscopic mechanism, which may also be of great importance to the development of neurodevelopmental diseases, was only known until now.”
Sleep restores from physical and mental strain. A good night’s sleep guarantees the next day’s vitality and functional ability. During sleep, the body rests and is recovered or cleansed. Sleep strongly affects the body: heart rate slows down and blood pressure drops. Inhalation is slowed down and body temperature decreases as the bloodstream circulates slower. The brain, however, is working while we sleep. They process day’s events and replenish their own energy storages.
The task of sleep is to take care of the physical and mental recovery of the body. Sleep restores body from fatigue and balances nervous function. Sleep affects central nervous system and intellectual activities such as metabolism that affects our body weight, body’s immune system and hormones. Mind and brain need sleep that removes fatigue, restores vitality and perception, and maintains good mood.
In a way sleep digests and arranges the events of the previous day and prepares us for a new day. Sleep takes care of the brain, because during sleep, the brain sorts information on what happened and learned, moving from short-term memory to long-term memory. Dreams come up with thoughts, emotions, images, sounds and other senses. Dreams are sometimes astonishing, because things in the day or in the past are often mixed up oddly. While asleep, you may encounter yourself at a different age or meet dead or altered people alive. Subconsciously you are trying to solve your problems or unfinished things in your life.
What is sleep cycle?
There are two main types of sleep, each with its own distinct physiological, neurological and psychological features: rapid eye movement (REM) sleep and non-rapid eye movement (non-REM or NREM) sleep. These sleep types have different tasks. In the sleep classification of the Rechtschaff-Kales, the sleep is divided into cycles of the REM sleep and the NREM sleep.
NREM sleep consists of three stages:
Stage N1 sleep of non-rapid eye movement sleep (NREM), or dreamless sleep, occurs after you have decided to sleep and your eyes are closed. Brain waves and muscle activity begin slowing down in this stage. People in N1 sleep may experience sudden muscle jerks, preceded by a falling sensation. This is the lightest stage of sleep and you can quickly return to being fully awake.
Stage N2 sleep is a true sleep state and is a period of light sleep during which eye movements stops. Brain waves become slower and spontaneous periods of muscle tone mixed with periods of muscle relaxation. The heart rate slows and body temperature decreases. Stage N2 sleep accounts for about 40% to 50% of sleep time.
Stage N3 sleep. This stage accounts for about 20% of sleep in young adults. This stage typically starts 35-45 minutes after falling asleep. As electroencephalograms show, our brain waves slow down and become larger. At this point, you sleep through most potential sleep disturbances (noises and movements) without showing any reaction. Other names for this stage include “slow-wave sleep” and “Delta sleep.”
After falling asleep, a person normally goes through the phases of the NREM sleep and that is followed by a period of REM sleep. Usually, about five percent of the night’s sleep is NREM Stage N1, half of the sleep is Stage N2 sleep, about 10-20 percent of deep sleep Stage N3 and about 25 percent is the REM sleep. During the night, a person sleeps through several 1.5 to 2 hour sleep cycles.
During the deep sleep the body calms down and the sleep is refreshing. In deep sleep, the body is restored from physical strain and the energy reserves of the body are met. During that time the breathing is calm, the heart rate and the blood pressure are smooth. The stages of deep sleep are mainly experienced right after having fallen asleep.
During REM sleep, the brain function is activated when cerebral circulation increases locally. REM sleep — the deep sleep where most recalled dreams occur — your eyes continue to move but the rest of the body’s muscles are stopped. Breathing, heart rate and blood pressure are irregular and heart rhythm and hormonal balance vary. Only the diaphragm takes care of the breathing. The day’s experiences and emotions are organized and may end up into the dreams. Most of the dreams are seen in REM sleep. If a sleeper is awakened during the REM sleep, he may clearly remember the dream he saw.
How much sleep do we need?
We all know someone that likes to sleep until noon, also we know someone who wakes up really early and seems to get by with just a few hours of sleep.
The need for sleep is very individual and the variations are great. At different ages, we need sleep in different ways, and individual differences occur by hereditary characteristics and activity. Infants’ developing brain needs a lot of sleep and babies are sleeping almost all the time. For teenagers it would be advisable to sleep considerably more than most of them do today. Circadian rhythm stabilizes at about 17 years of age.
So the need for sleep varies from one stage of life to another. As adults, the normal nightly sleep is 6-9 hours, usually 7-8 hours per day. When you wake up you should feel rested and fresh. Too short nightly sleep and on the other hand oversleeping has side effects.
Abnormal sleep duration and sleep disturbances (longer or shorter sleep than an average duration of 7-7.5 hours) was associated with an increased risk of lung cancer. The difficulty of falling asleep or staying asleep instead increases the risk of dementia. People who sleep longer or shorter than an average duration of 7-7.5 hours have an increased mortality risk.
The link between sleep duration and lung cancer risk is related to mild inflammation in the body and disorder in the secretion of the melatonin hormone produced in the pineal gland.
Circadian rhythm, light sets the pace
Light sets the pace for sleep and wake. Sleep is controlled by an internal circadian rhythm that is triggered, for example, by light, working life and the various regular routines of the day. The human circadian rhythm is about 24 hours.
The internal clock helps the body to anticipate and prepare for future events. It adjusts the temperature response – body temperature rises in the morning and starts falling in the evening – and affects the bowel function and blood pressure. It is easier to fall asleep at the cooler body temperature in the evening. According to normal sleep and wake cycle, we feel tired in the afternoon around 14-17.
Wake time increases the amount of sleep pressure or sleepiness, whereby falling asleep is more likely. Sleep pressure accumulates when a person stays awake for a long enough time. During the awake time, various types of toxins and tiring substances, such as adenosine, accumulate in the body. The more these substances accumulate, the more we get tired. One of the purposes of sleep is to remove these substances from our body. In addition to the sleep pressure on the body, the body and the brain must also slow down their cycles so that it is possible to fall asleep. It would be very important to slow down the pace well in advance of bedtime.
People are naturally either a morning person or a night person. It seems that this is an inherited characteristic that apparently isn’t possible to change. However, everybody should make sure that they are getting enough of sleep during the night. If you feel tired every morning, you have to either go to bed earlier or sleep longer in the morning. Different sleeping habits may be a challenge in a relationship if spouses have completely different circadian rhythms.
A morning person wakes up in the mornings as cheery as ever- and wants to be social right away. At the same time, a night owl wakes up in the middle of her dreams, and is grumpy at the breakfast table. Differences may also be found what can be considered as a pleasant sleeping environment.
Melatonin is a natural sleep hormone
Melatonin, the hormone of darkness regulates circadian rhythm and hormonal secretion. It tells the body that it is dark and that it should sleep. Light exposes to early awakenings. An early waker gets light early in the morning, which is synchronizing his daily rhythm so that he goes accordingly earlier to sleep. For a good night’s sleep, it’s a good idea to get enough light during the day, preferably by outdoor activities. Short naps rejuvenate physically and mentally. Naps maintain a positive mood and promote the memory and learning of things and events throughout the day. Too long like more than a half hour nap, in turn, make a mess in the daily routine and nighttime sleep suffers easily.
Melatonin increases readiness to fall asleep. Many nowadays resort to it quite often, although its sleep-promoting effects are somewhat small. However, it may be helpful in treating sleep disorders or irregular sleep wake rhythm. Melatonin is a possible sleep aid for people over 55 years of age, maybe even for others. Their own melatonin production is low and melatonin treatment is equivalent to a kind of hormone replacement therapy and it does not hurt. However, there is no comprehensive study of the use of melatonin by younger people. According to some studies, the regular and long lasting use of melatonin may expose to diabetes, but further studies are needed. There’s evidence that disturbances to melatonin production may affect the body’s insulin levels. So there seems to be a strong link between sleep disorders and Type 2 diabetes.
Sleep deprivation and symptoms
Sleep deprivation means a situation where a person sleeps less than his/her need for sleep. If we neglect our long-term need for sleep, we will accumulate sleep debt. Lack of sufficient amount of sleep affects the brain. Logical reasoning suffers, as well as creativity and problem-solving ability. The quantity and quality of sleep have a profound impact on learning and memory.
“Many sleep too little and sleep deprivation has many effects. Daily alertness is reduced, memory deteriorates and learning new things becomes more difficult. Mood decreases easily and management of things becomes more difficult. A tired person is not creative and the risk of accidents increases” says one neurologist when he sums up the consequences of lack of sleep.
Sleep deprivation and sleep debt will affect in many aspects of body’s function and metabolism, for example, the heartbeat becomes more rapid. The lack of sleep attenuates cholesterol metabolism and increases, for example, the risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes. With sleep deprivation, our resistance also suffers, making us more vulnerable to various inflammatory diseases from small flus to viral and bacterial diseases.
Sleep deprivation increases the need for energy and strengthens the feeling of hunger. Nutrition affects sleep. A fat rich diet causes “Delayed sleep phase disorder”. Lack of deep sleep causes changes in insulin resistance and glucose tolerance, resulting in weight gain.
Lack of sleep also makes changes in cholesterol metabolism. Long-term sleep deprivation and disturbed cholesterol metabolism increase the risk of arterial disease such as coronary heart disease and heart and brain stroke. Changes caused by sleep deprivation also appear on the molecular level.
A person who suffers from sleep deprivation is a danger in traffic both for himself and other people. There are many professional drivers on the road that have irregular night work, which inevitably affects both sleep and wake time. If sleep disorder is caused by sleep apnea, it is possible to sleep at the wheel, not only in traffic lights but also in a monotonous straight road.
Shift work challenges the body
About a quarter of all workers are involved in shift work regularly and many occasionally. Some experience the problem of sleeping in a shift work difficult, others have no problems. Shift work often involves sleep deprivation, as at daytime sleeping is not as easy as at night.
When leaving from work in the morning, you should avoid bright light as it breaks the secretion of melatonin. Likewise, when working at night you should make use of bright lights. Before the night shift you should take small naps in the afternoon before the shift and whenever possible during the shift. After the last night shift, you should limit the duration of naps to be able to sleep enough the next night.
Normally it’s good to get up from bed straight away in the morning. After that it is good to have satisfactory breakfast in a bright place and maybe some morning exercises.
The scheduling of the work shifts should follow the clockwise rotation sequence, for example, in three-shift work: morning shift, evening shift, night shift and day offs. It ensures as much as possible of resting and sleeping time between shifts. Many feel that shift work becomes a problem with aging. With age the body needs more recovery time.
Sleep needs decline with age?
At middle age the sleep often becomes lighter and more susceptible to disturbances. With age falling asleep isn’t necessarily as easy as it was earlier and one might easily wake up in the middle of the night without any apparent reason. Aging comes with many changes that are part of aging naturally. With aging, sleep and sleeping will also change with the other changes in the whole body. Many older people also take naps during the day.
It is more difficult for the elderly to be awake for prolonged periods, unlike young people. Also, the time in bed before falling asleep becomes longer as a person is getting older. Adults 18 and older need anywhere from 1.5-1.8 hours of deep sleep per night, the elderly have deep sleep only for about 20 to 30 minutes per night. According to researchers, deep sleep is the most refreshing sleep, because sleep is controlled by slow brain waves. Researchers have shown that when these waves don’t interact properly, we can lose our long-term memory. That may help explain why older adults are so forgetful, and it could lead to new therapies to treat memory loss. As people age, sleep is not as restful or refreshing and sleep can become extremely superficial. Sleep feels lighter and it is easily disturbed by environmental distractions. For example, sleeping might also get easily interrupted if spouse is having difficulties with sleep and someone living alone might have fears of loneliness at night.
With aging, short-term nighttime awakenings become more common, especially in the early hours and after awakening it is difficult to fall back asleep. The increased urge to get up and urinate at night disturbs sleep and overall sleep becomes more sensitive to various disturbances.
Snoring and feeling of shortness of breath are common issues and at worst these problems can develop into treatment-intensive sleep apnea.