Sleep, Do We Really Need It?
Do We Really Need Sleep?
Yes we do need sleep.
I’m sure you have at one time or another experienced lack of sleep and suffered some uncomfortable after effects.
Which of the following did you experience the next day after a sleepless night?
- Lack of concentration
- ·Slower reflexes
If you checked at least two of those, then you suffered from sleep debt and this is not good for our health and well being. Those after effects will cause not only health problems but may even cause someone to lose his/her job or pick up a fight with a loved one or even get into an accident.
When Babies Sleep
What happens during sleep?
So what happens during sleep that makes it important?
Actually, so much is still unknown about sleep but what is/are known now should at least make us pay more attention to it.
- Growth hormone has its highest secretion during sleep. Thus sleep is very important especially for growing kids.
- Sleep is the time when we build/rebuild or even repair our muscles and bones and other body systems.
- Nerve cells grow their dendrites only when they are not receiving much information (which is during sleep). The more dendrites a neuron has, the greater will be its ability to receive and modulate information. Memory is consolidated and organized during sleep as the dendrites make their connections.
- Sleep deprived laboratory animals have lower white blood cells than those not deprived of sleep. This means that the sleep deprived animals have impaired immune systems because white blood cells participate in the immune response. Even if this has been observed so far in laboratory animals, it is also probably true for humans as well.
Sleep Related Things
Two Kinds of Sleep
There are two different kinds or phases of sleep:
- REM (rapid eye movement) and
- non-REM or slow wave sleep (SWS).
Slow wave sleep or non-REM sleep occurs during the early night and has four stages while REM occurs later in the night.
The two phases may repeat in a cycle during the course of our sleep. One cycle is usually completed in about 110 minutes. Both kinds of sleep are needed because different nervous activities occur during those two phases.
The Function of Sleep
Studies have shown that REM sleep is more restorative in function. That is, this is the time that growth and repair take place. We must give time for our body to heal and restore areas that have been damaged.
Non-REM or SWS on the other hand is important for memory formation and consolidation. So we therefore need sleep to give time for short term as well as long term memory to form and strengthen connections.
Full Benefits of Sleep
To get the full benefits of sleep, it is important however to establish a consistent routine of sleep time especially for children. Furthermore, we have to reduce or remove all possible sources of stimulus during sleep. That means, all lights and sounds must be off and temperature must be just right.
Below are other tips for you to get the full benefits of sleep:
- Do not go to sleep on either a full or an empty stomach.
- Go to bed only when you are ready to sleep.
- Don’t watch the clock
- Contrary to popular belief, counting sheep will not help. So, don’t count sheep
- Do not take any caffeine containing products like coffee, tea or soft drinks before sleeping
- Don’t exercise before going to sleep.
- Don’t drink water before going to sleep. If you do, you will have to get up during the middle of your sleep cycle to void the extra water.
- Don’t talk or think about worrisome problems before going to sleep
- Use your bedroom only for sleeping
- Relax... and...zzzzz
How much sleep do you get every night?
A philosopher friend once remarked that we can liken ourselves to mirrors that are broken into pieces (because of the various interactions) during the day and at night when we sleep we are made whole again so we can be broken once more when the morning comes.
And that I think is a very nice way of answering my beginning question “Do we really need sleep?”