Sleep is crucial for our health and functionality. It is a vital part of memory consolidation, emotional regulation, and physical restoration. Sleep deprivation has negative impacts on individuals and society.
Sleep deprivation leads to increased risk of heart disease, diabetes, and cancer, as well as impaired cognitive function and emotional regulation.
Factors that influence sleep include age, genetics, and environment.
We all have our own body clock, also called circadian rhythm. It's our natural 24-hour cycle that affects our sleep, appetite, mood, and metabolism.
Circadian rhythms vary from person to person, which can cause problems for the 30% of the population who are "night owls." These people have a natural inclination to stay up late and wake up late, but society's morning-oriented schedule can lead to sleep deprivation and its associated health problems.
There is a strong link between sleep deprivation and cardiovascular diseases. Less sleep raises blood pressure, which damages the walls of blood vessels and increases the risk of heart problems.
A massive study involving more than 500,000 worldwide participants found that lack of sleep increases a person's risk of having cardiovascular disease by 45%.
A study in Japan found those who slept six hours or less per night were 500% more likely to have a cardiac arrest.
If diet and exercise are the pillars of health, then sleep is the foundation.
All animals need sleep, but the amount and type of sleep required varies greatly. Humans need eight hours a day. Elephants sleep for four hours a day. Bats are only awake for five hours a day. Sharks sleep with their eyes open since they have no eyelids.
All non-aquatic mammals and birds experience rapid-eye-movement (REM) sleep, during which dreaming happens, while other animals do not.
Sleep deprivation can make you a danger to society, particularly when driving. Getting less than seven hours of sleep increases your chances of entering microsleep -- involuntary sleep that lasts just a few seconds. Thus your chances of being involved in an accident also increases.
Additionally, driving while drowsy is just as dangerous as driving while drunk. A study found that sleep-deprived individuals performed similarly poorly on a concentration test as those who were legally drunk. It's important to remember that driving while drowsy is just as irresponsible as driving under the influence of alcohol.
Although most sleepwalking is harmless, it can lead to dangerous consequences, as seen in the case of Kenneth Parks who unknowingly killed his mother-in-law during a sleepwalking episode.
Research shows that people are not dreaming as they're sleepwalking, because they're not in REM sleep while sleepwalking. Sleepwalking is more common in children than adults, potentially due to spending less time in REM sleep.
Tips to improve sleep:
Avoid alcohol or smoking. Alcohol makes it harder for the body to enter deep sleep, and large quantities can impair breathing while asleep. Nicotine is a stimulant, so smokers tend to sleep lightly and often wake up earlier due to withdrawal.
Taking a hot shower or bath before bed can relax the body and mind, and the drop in body temperature that results from getting out of the bath can induce drowsiness.
Getting natural sunlight during the day helps to regulate sleep patterns.
Keep the room temperature lower during the night.
If you are unable to fall asleep within 20 minutes, then try doing a calming task until you become drowsy.
Open the bedroom curtains before going to sleep to allow sunlight to enter in the morning, which will wake the body naturally instead of being jolted awake by an alarm.
Sleep is not a luxury but a biological necessity, and society needs to prioritize it in order to improve our overall health and well-being.