Originally posted on Asante Wellbeing
Sleep. Can’t live without it. Can’t literally live without it.
We spend approximately a third of our lives asleep, which over a 24 hour period equates to a full 8 hours. But is this the right amount? Could you manage with 5 or 6 hours sleep? What about 10 or 12 hours? We’ll explore the answer in this article.
Overview – What is Sleep?
To some, sleep is a wonderful state. Hours of rest, recovery and hopefully good dreams. To others, it’s more of a chore which takes away from the joy of the day.
However you see it, Sleep is a crucial part of our biological system and is known to be an active state in which our brain is able to begin processing and defragging, and our body is able to rest and recover.
Why do we need Sleep?
The Sleep Association (https://www.sleepassociation.org/about-sleep/what-is-sleep/) identifies 3 primary reasons why we need sleep, but there are several others, too.
To Survive – studies have shown sleep is crucial for our ability to survive (i.e. stay alive). This may be linked to reason two below, where our immune system becomes negatively affected by the lack of REM sleep which affects our body’s ability to regulate temperature and provide protection against the environment. In a study, rats which were sleep deprived survived merely 5 weeks vs healthier rats surviving anywhere from 2 to 3 years.
To Support our Nervous Function – Sleep is linked to a healthier working nervous functioning. Sleep deprivation causes us to lose the ability to focus and concentrate on any given task, it also affects judgement and ability to think which makes it dangerous if driving or operating machinery. During sleep, our brain has the chance to reinforce the neural connections in our brain which help us maintain cellular activity.
To Support our Immune System – Following from an impaired immune system, lack of sleep can put immense stress onto your immune system. There is a link between sleep and immune functioning with scientists finding a link between full, deep sleep and an increase in cytokine production. Cytokines are associated with inflammation, which helps you recover when injured or otherwise ill. Without this response we would not be able to effectively recover, which could lead to prolonged illnesses or worse.
Helps promote positive Mental Health – if you suffer from depression or another form of mental health issue, you may suffer from sleep disorders such as waking up in the middle of the night unable to go back asleep or even insomnia. This lack of sleep can aggravate mental health concerns and the underlying problems even more obviously as shown in the image from Mind.org below. Lack of sleep leads to more tiredness which leads to impaired decision making and aggravation and further compounding the underlying issues potentially giving rise to worse and worse mental health states.