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The Underlying Importance of Sleep

Sleep is important in many ways for good health and well-being. Getting the right amount (generally 7-8 hours) of good quality sleep can help protect and increase mental and physical health, resulting in a better quality of life.

Whilst asleep, our bodies are actually working to provide a healthy brain function along with maintaining and repairing physical health.

The harm from sleep deprivation can occur in various ways; instantly or over time. For example, ongoing sleep deficiency is proven to increase the risk for some chronic health problems; such as heart attacks, diabetes and mental health. It also can affect how well we think, learn and react.

Physical Health

Sleep helps maintain a healthy balance of the hormones that cause you to feel hungry or full. When inadequate amounts of sleep become regular, levels of hungry hormones are increased whilst levels of filling hormones are decreased. This ultimately leads to a greater food consumption as a result of more feelings of hunger, therefore increasing the risk of gaining weight and hence, obesity.

Sleep is also crucial for adequate growth and development in children. This development allows for muscles to help repair tissue and cells within the body. Deep sleeps trigger the release of hormones that promote normal growth in children and teens, however when not enough sleep is gained, these hormones are less likely to be triggered, which can lead to poor development.

The immune system also relies on sleep to stay healthy and productive and works to defend our bodies against disease, infection and harmful substances. Ongoing sleep deficiency can change the overall function in which our immune system responds to such influences. This can ultimately reduce the ability of the body to fight disease, allowing the body to become unstable and unhealthy.

Sleep plays a role in the healing and repair of the heart and blood vessels. With rest, our bodies and major organs are given time to relax and recover from a busy, active day and prepare itself for another. Sleep deficiency prevents this and is proven to increase the risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, kidney illness, diabetes, and stroke.

Mental Heath

Sleep essentially helps the brain to function properly. During sleep, the brain is resting and creating a stronger cognitive ability by building connections that ultimately increase cognitive development and improve memory function. Whatever it is that you may be learning or studying, sleep and rest enhance learning and cognitive abilities. The rest gained over a good night’s sleep is proven to increase concentration, productivity and performance, and ultimately improves your overall cognitive capacity.

Poor sleep however, has been proven to cause implications within the brain. Emotional instability, indecisiveness and a negative mind set are all symptoms of poor sleeping patterns and sleep deprivation. The lack of sleep is linked to mental illnesses such as depression and suicide. The lack of sleep often results in youth’s being less motivated and more impulsive with mood swings that can impact on their social capacity which can result in feelings of sadness and isolation that can produce the onset of depression.

Daytime Performance and Safety

It is proven that obtaining adequate sleep helps the body and brain function well throughout the day. Those who are lacking sleep are often found to be less productive and have slower reactions.

Losing just one hour a night for an ongoing period can reduce daily productivity and lead to power naps during the day when you would usually be awake and active. These microsleeps can affect normal learning capacities as individuals may “zone out” during lectures or readings and miss the required information presented. It also becomes dangerous when individuals find themselves influenced by sleep deprivation whilst driving, putting both themselves and others at risk.

Most people are not aware of the risks associated with sleep deficiency, and most people don’t even realise that they are affected. Sleep deficiency affects many aspects of health and performance in daily life, and as a result, it can become harmful in both small and large-scale instances. This is why it is crucial that individuals meet the required 7-8 hours of sleep per day to assist in maximising overall safety, health and well-being.