When we’ve had a long day at work or looking at the kids, there’s no better feeling than clambering into our beds and getting our heads down. I’m sure you’ll be glad to hear then, that sleep is one of the most important parts of our daily routine, helping our bodies to relax and revitalise our systems. It can also help you to avoid some rather serious health implications.
During the process of sleeping, you’ll find that some very important mental and physical processes begin to happen in our body. Sleep helps to improve your brains general day to day functionality, as well as improving your emotional wellbeing and helping to aid muscle recovery and general physical health.
Research has suggested that the average adult requires around 7-8 hours sleep a day to function normally the next day, and this figure varies depending on age, which we will go into later.
What actually happens in our bodies when we sleep?
Sleeping is important to allow our bodies to rest after mental and physical activities. It also decreases your blood pressure and conserves important energy supplies. Throughout sleep, your brain will remain active, logging things like memory and restoring your day to day mental functionality.
Whilst you sleep five stages take place:
- Stage 1, Light Sleep: The process of transitioning between being asleep and being awake. This is where we are easily woken, and our eyes move slowly.
- Stage 2, Eye Movement Stops: Our eye movement ceases and this is when we enter into a light dream state.
- Stage 3, Deep Sleep: This is when we enter into a deep sleep and it is more difficult to wake us up. This is also when our body temperature also starts to rapidly reduce.
- Stage 4, Deep Sleep: Similar to stage 3, except out body temperature starts to reduce further and our brain’s energy reduces. This is when sleepwalking also tends to occur.
- Stage 5, Rapid Eye Movement (REM): This isn’t when the popular band play you a concert, this is when your eyes start to move rapidly, and most dreams take place. Our limbs also become paralyzed and heart rate & blood pressure increases.
How do I know I’m getting enough sleep?
Amount of sleep needed varies depending on your age, but it can vary from person to person also. As you grow older, sleep becomes less important. New parents need to ensure their baby and small children have as much sleep as possible. Babies of 4-12 months generally need around 12-16 hours a day. Teenagers from 13-18 will need between 8 and 10 hours a day. The rest land somewhere in between.
For adults, we generally need between 7 and 8 hours a night. It is important we try and get these hours in, as our bodies can’t function to full capacity without it.
So, what happens if we don’t get enough sleep?
Not getting enough sleep can be very dangerous, and this actually has a name, it’s called sleep debt. So, as an example, if you lost 2 hours sleep a night for a week, you’d be in sleep debt of around 14 hours which is a lot of sleep!
This can cause you some serious harm over time, and you may encounter some of the following issues:
- Excessive tiredness in the daytime
- Headaches and difficult focusing
- Poor memory logging
- Mental health issues (anxiety/depression)
- Chronic health issues
- Making mistakes at work
These are just some of the issues that can arise from a lack of sleep. So, hopefully, you can see how important it is for you and your children to grab those duvets and those pillows and truly enjoy those hours of shut-eye!
Photo Credit: Annie Spratt