Sleeping is one of the most important parts of our day. Whilst the promise of a large comfortable bed is more than appealing at the end of a long day, it is also because sleep is an integral part to the proper functioning of our body and mind. During sleep, both use this “down-time” to repair and restore themselves. Usually characterized by a complete reduction in physical and mental activity, sleep is dictated by our circadian clock or cycle, a built-in timer that indicates the time to rest.
Scientists and medical professionals have determined that the optimal amount of sleep needed to ensure a healthy amount of rest is roughly about eight hours daily. That amount of sleep would make sure that we go through both Rapid Eye Movement (REM) and non-REM sleep which help with recuperation and guarantees a restful sleep. There are a range of benefits to a maintained sleep schedule, including but not limited to maintaining your mood, memory, and cognitive performance, as well as stimulating both your endocrine and immune systems.
It comes as little surprise then that a good amount of sleep leads to a healthier mind and body. Likewise, the opposite it also true. A lack of proper sleep, let that be through reduced hours or an inability to fall into REM sleep can have nefarious consequences – especially if drawn out over a long period of time. Issues such as insomnia, narcolepsy, and sleep apnea are fairly common and can affect both your physical and mental well-being. Same goes for non-natural factors such as industrialized lighting, noise pollution or stress-driven insomnia.
An adequate amount of sleep is essential to optimal brain performance, therefore affecting your ability to learn, create memories, solve problems and maintain a healthy mental outlook. Continued inability to properly recover during sleep has in turn been linked to a rash of health issues, such as reduced brain function, anxiety, depression, headaches and physical limitations. This may help explain the mood swings, inability to focus as well as your impaired cognitive reactions you may experience after a poor night’s sleep.
Reducing caffeine intake, making your room more sleep-friendly, starting a pre-sleep routine that deceases your activity levels as well as eating dinner earlier are just some of the recommendations put forward by Harvard. Holistic options like herbal treatments, acupuncture and mediation are also available for those who are struggling with insomnia or other types of sleep disorders. On the other hand, going forward with drugs such as sleeping pills or anti-anxiety medication is also a fairly common course of action for many, but the dangers associated with prolonged use point towards an unsustainable habit.