Sleep is perhaps one of the most mysterious aspects of human life; we spend, on average, 26 years of our lives in the land of nod. But why is sleep so important, and what happens when you don’t get enough of it?
Sleep is perhaps one of the most mysterious aspects of human life; we spend, on average, 26 years of our lives in the land of nod, although it is impossible to pin point exactly where the land of nod is. Particularly if you are one of the thousands of people in the UK who has a hard time getting there, as one third of the population will experience episodes of insomnia throughout their life. But why is sleep so important, and what happens when you don’t get enough of it?
National Sleep Awareness Week begins on the 2nd of March and aims to highlight how much
sleep we actually need in order for our bodies to be getting enough rest. Obviously, everyone is different and some people may require more or less sleep but the Sleep Awareness Foundation says nine hours is generally the right amount for an adult.
A study by
On Stride Financial, which used a focus group of 2000 men and women over the age of 18, aimed to discover out how a lack of sleep affects us, and, more importantly, how we can recover our lost hours of sleep, also called Sleep Debt. The study found that the average respondent slept 6 hours and 25 minutes – more than 30 minutes less than what the Sleep Awareness Foundation recommends as the minimum amount of sleep you should have.
You aren’t conscious of it, but when you’re asleep your brain is practising all the things it has learnt during the day. Have you ever experienced being better at something the second time you try it, even though you haven’t practised? That’s because you have been practising, while you were out for the count. Those who do not get enough sleep find that their short term memory suffers and that they struggle to concentrate. Read more: Sleep deprivation may affect memory loss
Degenerated Life spanThere have been several studies on how sleep affects life span, and the evidence proves that people who get enough sleep live longer. According to the research, people who sleep less than six hours a night, are 12% more likely to die prematurely than those who get up eight hours of sleep a night. Read more:
8 Hours required for a lengthy lifespan
Weight GainToo little sleep can throw out the body’s fuel intake and spur on less than ideal food lifestyles by misjudging the amount of nutritional intake. With the lack of sleep, hormone induced changes and cravings can occur which make the unhealthy ‘comfort’ food the number one priority when you struggle to doze off. Read more:
Sleep deprivation spurring hormonal change linked to obesity
Sleep stress leads to heart diseaseStress of being awake for extended periods of time will cause your body to produce more chemicals keeping muscle and brain activity on high alert. The body requires rest especially those always on the go, for instance the heart. Too much stress and not enough rest can lead to heart disease for those who sleep less than 6 hours. Read more:
Late nights can lead to risk of strokes & heart attacks
Natural ways to helpGetting off to sleep can often be a great challenge for many people but there are natural methods which can help, highlighted by some of our experts:
Meditation. Try out meditation about 20-30 minutes before going to bed can help relax your body and mind, preparing yourself for sleep.
Avoid large meals. Avoiding large meals or junk food two to four hours before going to bed, the digestive process raises metabolic rates and delays the onset of sleep.
Avoid strenuous exercise. Looking at the perspective from traditional Chinese medicine exercising in the evening encourages yang energy to flood the body, tai chi or
pilates could be better substitute. Watch what you drink. Although many people believe alcohol to encourage sleep, which initially might be true, when the alcohol levels in your blood falls this actually has a stimulate effect.The obvious culprit, caffeine, should also be avoided in the hours building up to sleep. The drug blocks sleep-inducing chemicals to the brain and instead increased adrenaline production.