Sleep is a natural process characterized by low or absent consciousness and very little to absent body motion. The timing of sleep is usually controlled by an internal body clock that is also known as the circadian clock. All mammal animals sleep. There is a special gene that that determines the amount of time that each individual person requires for sleep. The average duration of time required for sleep by an adult person is seven hours.
Lack of adequate sleep is shown to double the risk of death from cardio-vascular diseases (i.e. “heart disease”). Inadequate sleep is associated with high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes. Chronic sleep deficit results in diminished ability to perform high-level cognitive function (i.e. thinking). Sleeping difficulty is associated with psychiatric disorders like depression, alcoholism and bipolar disorder.
Here are 7 reasons why you must sleep 7 hours every night (or day).
Sleep is required for body healing and restoration. During sleep body organs such as muscles are repaired. Wounds are healed during sleep. The immune system is maintained and revitalized.
During nightly sleep hormonal functions take place on a cycle called circadian rhythm. Some of those involve the brain’s pineal gland that secretes melatonin that modulates the sleep cycle. The brain’s pituitary gland secretes hormones cyclically. Pituitary secreted growth hormone is mandatory for children’s growth. Pituitary ACTH secretions include orderly secretion of endorphins (among other hormones) that make us feel optimistic and well. Other secreted hormones control appetite.
During sleep the body’s available stores of immediate energy such as muscle glycogen are replenished.
Importantly, during sleep the brain takes time to process mental impressions, pleasant and unpleasant emotions, information from our environment and it synthesizes new ideas. Guiltless sexual activity occurs during sleep. Adequate sleep is required for thinking functions like reasoning and decision making. We need our sleep to maintain our sanity.
During sleep many obnoxious external sensory stimuli are shut out. As a result less adrenaline is secreted and blood pressure comes down naturally. During sleep the heart beat tends to be regular and slower and episodes of irregular heartbeats (palpitations) decline.
Sleep is required to maintain our safe existence and survival. Restful sleep enhances good judgment during car driving. Car accidents due to impaired driving are caused not only by alcohol but also by lack of adequate sleep. Same is true for prevention of industrial accidents caused while operating heavy mechanical equipment. Commercial aviation pilots are mandated a minimal hours of sleep during long-range trans-oceanic flights.
Dreaming is an obligatory high level mental activity that takes place during sleep. The function of dreaming is subject to speculations. One thing is clear – dreaming is part of being human. No human would like to be deprived of his or her dreams.
You have to have a dream to make a dream come true!
Here are 7 actions you can take to get enough sleep 7 hours 7 days a week.
o Go to bed and sleep 7 hours at about the same time in all of 7 days of the week. Do that even if you work night shifts.
o Create a regular relaxing activity an hour before bedtime. Listen to soothing music or take a warm bath.
o Banish sleep-interrupters from your bedroom. Turn off TV, cell-phone, and computers. The light emitted from your electronic equipment confuses your circadian clock.
o If you sleep regularly during daytime make sure that your bedroom is darkened by proper heavy blinds that block daylight.
o Avoid alcohol and caffeinated beverages before bedtime.
o Melatonin is an over-the-counter natural sleep adjunct. It makes more sense to use melatonin than sleeping pills. Melatonin is useful in recovering from sleep disrupting jet-lag.
o People who cannot sleep because of anxiety will do best to consult a mental health practitioner for help. Further referral to a reputable specialized sleep clinic may provide beneficial advanced remedies.
Disclaimer: nothing in this blog should be construed as a medical advice. Interested readers are encouraged to discuss individual health issues with their health care provider.
© Mandy Lender MD. 2013. All rights reserved.