How many times are you told that you need to get eight hours of sleep every night as often as possible? This is something that all of us hear a lot, but do not necessarily understand. It is likely that you haven’t been sleeping your requisite number of hours and still think you can get by without out, because it doesn’t seem to affect your day-to-day-life as much.
This is where you’re wrong. Majority of research indicates that teenagers and adults need to get eight hours of sleep, if not more. Your body needs eight hours of sleep to function at its best, and here are some short-term and long-term reasons why. Once you realize just how important sleep is for effective functioning, you will make sure that you give your body the rest that it needs!
You may have noticed this if you had been deprived of sleep lately – there’s a feeling that you aren’t able to remember everything you are trying to recall, and that is probably a direct consequence of sleeping less. Sleep is not just important in order to ensure that you are able to focus on whatever information is being presented to you; it is also required for memory consolidation. Different stages of sleep help with consolidating, or making more stable, one’s memory and this is essential for processing everything that occurs around you, and being able to recall it at will. This is achieved by making the connections between certain areas of the brain – sleep can literally change the way you think!
Blood sugar and blood pressure
The amount of sleep you get can affect your blood sugar levels. It has been found that the lesser amount of sleep you get, the more your blood sugar is likely to increase, to the point that the risk of diabetes is increased. This can further cause more sleep problems, as higher blood sugar can cause more trouble sleeping which can cause further blood sugar fluctuations.
Additionally, insufficient amounts of sleep can be one of the causative factors linked to increased blood pressure, or in cases where high blood pressure is already present, make the issue worse. Getting eight hours of sleep helps prevent high blood pressure and also help treating cases of hypertension.
Sleep is also important in regulating an individual’s appetite. Sleeping at irregular times or staying up late can lead to excessive calorie consumption, which can lead to obesity when considered in the long run. Not only this, a preference for sugars or fatty foods is observed, which increases the risk of disease over time.
Conversely, however, sleeping for eight hours impacts your weight loss and maintenance goals positively. Both hormones associated with hunger, ghrelin and leptin, are regulated during the course of the sleep cycle.
All the above factors are associated with cardiovascular risk – sleep has a significant impact on the heart disease risk. This effect persists regardless of age or even exercise habits. Getting eight hours of sleep also reduces the risk of a sudden stroke or heart attack. Additionally, sleep is also involved in regulating heart rate and ensuring that the fluctuations in heart rate are as normally expected.
Sleeping for the right amount of time is also associated with ensuring that the various hormones in the endocrine system are regulated. For example, as mentioned previously, blood sugar levels are affected by the amount of sleep you get. Blood sugar levels, in turn, are related to the hormone insulin. People who get less than eight hours of sleep a night at 1-3 times more likely to develop diabetes, as are people who get more than nine hours. It seems as though eight hours is the sweet spot for the right amount of sleep you need to get every night!
Additionally, some hormones such as the growth hormone are active when we’re sleeping, and thus, getting the right amount of sleep becomes even more important when one is younger. On the other hand, getting the right amount of sleep is associated with inhibiting the secretion of cortisol, also referred to as the “stress hormone”.
Depression and anxiety
Aside from physical problems, not getting the right amount of sleep is also associated with a higher risk for both anxiety disorders and depression. The stress on the body as well as the brain as a result of sleep deprivation, coupled with hormonal imbalances as a consequence of the same, can result in one experiencing the physiological symptoms of anxiety. A similar pattern is found with depression, with individuals who sleep less being more than five times as likely to develop major depression. Additionally, both these mental disorders create cyclic problems by impacting sleep again, highlighting the importance of the right amount of sleep.
Sleep is crucial for the functioning of the immune system. Get the right amount of sleep, and your body feels better prepared to deal with the day. It is during the sleeping hours that certain cells in the immune system are produced, which are required to fight off pathogens. Thus, it is unsurprising that getting lesser amounts of sleep is associated with a greater likelihood of catching the flu or a common cold. Furthermore, getting lesser than the right amount of sleep can cause muscles to respond as though inflamed, leading to further physical stress on the body.
Overall well being and longevity
Given that the human body is essentially a network of systems that are always interacting with each other, it is unsurprising that sleep can affect overall well being in more ways than one, through the multiple pathways listed above. Getting the right amount of sleep is crucial to staying healthy for longer. Twin studies have also indicated that if all genetic factors are comparable, simply ensuring quality sleep for eight hours alone can prolong the life expectancy of an individual. Given its additive and significant impact on a person’s life, it is recommended that everyone get the optimal amount of sleep, i.e., eight hours.