Research shows that adults need seven to nine hours of sleep each night to maintain optimal health and function. Not enough sleep can have serious consequences, from reduced cognition and attention to delayed reactions and mood swings. Luckily, there are some easy ways to make sure that you are getting enough sleep.
Many factors contribute to sleep problems. Chronic lack of sleep can contribute to depression and anxiety, which can be life-threatening. In the United States alone, an estimated 40 million adults suffer from a sleep disorder each year. In addition, people with physical problems can interfere with sleep, like backache and arthritis. In women, hormonal shifts can also cause problems at night, affecting sleep. Premenstrual syndrome and menopause can cause hot flashes and disrupt your sleep.
Sleep also helps your brain recognize and process emotions. Lack of sleep increases your negative emotional reactions and reduces positive ones. In addition, people with chronic lack of sleep are five times more likely to develop mood disorders. Insomnia can also contribute to a higher BMI and an increased risk of diabetes. Sleeping well can improve your outlook on life and prepare you for any challenges that might come your way.
A good night’s sleep can prevent you from getting sick and helps you recover from sickness faster. While you sleep, your body produces more cytokines, which help the immune system fight off viruses. Without enough sleep, your body has fewer cytokines, reducing its ability to fight off common infections. Lack of sleep can also weaken the immune system’s response to the flu vaccine. In one study, volunteers who were sleep deprived were half as likely to produce a high number of flu antibodies as those who were well rested.
Despite the fact that humans spend only a quarter or a third of their lives sleeping, sleep is extremely important for a healthy mind and body. Research shows that deep sleep helps the body repair and regenerate, and it helps strengthen the immune system. However, more research is needed to understand the mechanisms behind these processes. During the course of a night’s sleep, we go through four stages of sleep. The first stage is known as REM sleep. During this stage, we usually dream.
REM sleep is an active stage of sleep that occurs approximately 90 minutes after falling asleep. REM sleep is characterized by rapid eye movement, increased heart rate, and brain activity. Most people spend at least a quarter of their sleep time during this stage, which can last from 10 minutes to an hour.
In healthy adults, our circadian rhythm and sleep-wake homeostasis guide our sleep-wake patterns. Different categories of people have different circadian rhythms. For example, early birds tend to go to bed early in the morning, while late birds sleep later in the evening. In people with circadian rhythm sleep disorders, their biological clock is not in sync with natural light and darkness.