Sleep is a survival necessity that is as important as food and water. Without an adequate amount of sleep, we are like walking zombies. So, why is sleep important and why do we need it badly?
Contrary to what most people believe, sleep is not a shutdown of mind and body. In fact, it is an active course of processing, consolidation and restoration of the important functions in our body. A sleeping person might look calm and peaceful from the outside, but during sleep, the mind works big time!
The pieces of information we acquired during the day undergo a process of consolidation from short-term to long- term memory. Sleep is also the time when our body undergo repair and detoxification. We cannot undermine the importance of sleep in our survival every single day.
Here are some interesting facts about sleep that you will find worthy to read on.
1. Lack of sleep makes you hungry
People who do not get enough sleep are hungrier because their leptin hormone levels drop during sleep. Leptin is a hormone that regulates appetite hence a drop on this hormone would cause one to feel hungry.
2. Regular exercise improves sleeping pattern
Studies show a link between regular exercise and having a good night sleep. The direct relationship between exercise and sleep is still vague. We know that getting a good physical workout helps improve blood circulation and makes you feel alert and productive. With these positive and healthy undertakings, who would not get a relaxed anxiety free sleep, right?
3. Unlimited internet access is one of the major causes of sleep distraction
Swedish researchers have linked the overuse of internet to sleep deprivation and even depression. They said that information overload is taking a toll on sleep quality. There is a significant lack of transition from work to home life, which keeps people awake all night.
4. You are usually tired at 2PM (and 2AM!)
These are the periods in a day where your tiredness is at its peak. No wonder we get so sleepy at work around 2:00 pm!
5. Falling asleep ideally occurs within 10-15 minutes
If it takes you less than 5 minutes to sleep at night, it is a sign that you are sleep deprived.
6. Sleep deprivation will kill you first before food deprivation
Sleep deprivation is a form of torture as identified by Amnesty International. You can go for a week without food and be alive. For the same number of days without sleep will render you functionless equivalent to death. Longest record for a man to survive without sleep is 18 days and longest record for a miraculous man to survive without food is 11 months!
7. High altitude usually causes sleep disruption
The sleep disruption at high altitudes has a link to the diminished oxygen level that creates an impact on respiration.
8. Most healthy adults need seven to eight hours of sleep at night
Although there is no magic number for the ideal sleeping hours, research has it that only 1 in every 40 people requires less than 7 hours sleep at night. This is a result of an experiment done on test subjects who were asked to sleep any time they feel tired. Done without distractions, 95% slept for 7 to 8 hours within 24 hours.
9. Insomnia is the most commonly reported sleep disorder
The inability to get sleep or sleep well at night is quite common. Insomnia is the most common complaint among sleep disorders. Signs and symptoms include difficulty falling asleep or getting back to sleep, waking up frequently, light sleep, sleepiness, and low energy during the day.
10. REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep begins 90 minutes after falling asleep and totals about 2 hours at night.
This is the stage where we experience dreams. The heart will beat faster with rapid and irregular breathing and periods when eyes dart back and forth. About 25% of the whole sleeping time is under REM sleep.
11. Insomnia is a normal part of grieving
Apart from the emotional pain, there are a number of physical side effects of grief, which also include sleeplessness. There are tips to improve “sleep hygiene” and it does not include taking some sleeping pills.
12. We are the only mammal that willingly delays sleep
Man is indeed the only mammal that intentionally delays the call for sleep. Animals like dogs, cows and sheep listen to the call of their bodies to sleep.
13. Brain “Spring Cleaning” happens during sleep
During the day, our brains absorb a lot of sensory information from all the activities that we do. Not all of this information is relevant so there would be a process of consolidation of the important things that needs to be stored or remembered and to let the useless stuff go. This whole process called “Spring Cleaning” happens when we are asleep.
14. There are Five Stages of Sleep
The five stages of sleep repeat every 90 minutes. Stage 1 happens when you slowly transition from consciousness to light sleep and after two minutes or so, you slowly relax entering to Stage 2, which is a 20-minute stage when breathing becomes regular and body temperature drops. Stages 3-4 are deep forms of sleep characterized by large brain waves. These two stages last for 30 minutes combined, and this is where sleepwalking and sleep talking may happen. Stage 5 which is the REM (Rapid Eye Movement Stage) happens but usually we go back to stages 3 and 2, repeating the cycle several times before we eventually wake up.
15. Your body jerks between sleep stages 1 and 2
These occasional jerks are called hypnic jerks, which occur in early parts of the sleep cycle. One theory states that as the muscles relax the sleepy brain thinks that the body is falling hence the jolts to try to catch itself.
We have a time when sleep is slowly becoming a luxury. The demands of the modern and fast paced lifestyle have little room for sleep as a priority in survival. The ill effects of sleep deprivation are slowly manifested by the person in terms of mood, poor productivity, irritability, lack of focus and so on.
Do not deprive yourself of your needed sleep. Seek a medical professional if you have problems sleeping.
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Encyclopedia Britannica. (2016). 9 Fun Facts About Sleep. [online] Available at: http://www.britannica.com/list/9-fun-facts-about-sleep [Accessed 5 May 2016].
Roxanne B. Sukol, M., Kristin Kirkpatrick, L., Scott Burg, D., Mark Hyman, M. and Brooke Gurland, M. (2014). 22 Facts About Sleep That Will Surprise You (Infographic) - Health Essentials from Cleveland Clinic. [online] Health Essentials from Cleveland Clinic. Available at: https://health.clevelandclinic.org/2014/05/22-facts-about-sleep-that-will-surprise-you-infographic/ [Accessed 5 May 2016].
Harvard Business Review. (2011). Sleep is More Important than Food. [online] Available at: https://hbr.org/2011/03/sleep-is-more-important-than-f/ [Accessed 5 May 2016].
Abc.net.au. (2016). The National Sleep Research Project - 40 amazing facts about sleep. [online] Available at: http://www.abc.net.au/science/sleep/facts.htm [Accessed 5 May 2016].