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The importance of adequate sleep

Unlike common belief, sleep is not merely a period when the body shuts off. While asleep, your brain stays awake to oversee the biological and maintenance processes that keep your body functioning in top notch condition, preparing you to handle the waking hours ahead. With inadequate restorative sleep, you won’t be in a position to work, create, learn or communicate at your full potential. In other words, the quality of your sleep has a direct and significant impact on your physical and mental health which includes but not limited to vitality, creativity, brain performance, heart health, weight and most importantly, productivity. As a matter of fact, there is no other natural bodily activity that offers so many benefits with so little effort. Frequently skip “service” and you will be headed for a major physical and mental breakdown.

How Many Sleep Cycles Should You Get Each Night?

These stages progress cyclically from stage one through REM and then begin all over again on stage 1. A complete cycle of sleep typically lasts between 90 to 100 minutes, with each of these stages lasting between five to fifteen minutes. When you fall asleep, the initial sleep cycles are characterized by short REM sleep and long duration of deep sleep. Later in the night, deep sleep time shortens while REM periods become longer.

What happens in each sleep cycle? - icon

What happens in each sleep cycle?

In the five stages of sleep, stage 1 to 4 comprises non-REM sleep while the fifth one is purely REM sleep.

Stage 1
You experience light sleep and occasionally drift in and out of slumber. There is also visible muscle activity and slow eye movements. You might also experience involuntary and sudden muscle spasms, preceded by a feeling of falling off the bed.

Stage 2
Eye movements are no longer visible and brain activity slows to only a few bursts of rapid brain waves. The heart slows down and body temperatures drop as it begins to prepare for deep sleep.

Stage 3
When you enter this stage, slow brain waves known as delta waves are interspersed with faster but smaller brain waves. This is the period when you enter deep sleep. At this stage, a person might experience nightmares, sleepwalking, sleep talking or even bed wetting. These behaviors are referred to as Parasomnias and typically happen during transitions from Non-REM to REM sleep.

Stage 4
The brain entirely produces delta waves while deep sleep continues. If you get woken at this stage, you might feel disoriented for some time.

Stage 5: REM (rapid eye movement) sleep
When in REM brain waves behave as if you are awake. Your eyes move from side to side rapidly but remain closed. This can be attributed to the intense dreams and brain activity that goes on in this stage.

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How many hours of sleep are enough for good health?

The amount of sleep you need to lead a healthy life depends on several factors. However, all of them boil down to age.

Basically:
Infants need approximately 12 to 15 hours of sleep daily
Toddlers require 11 to 14 hours daily
Preschool children 10 to 13 hours on a daily basis
School-age children 9 to 11 hours
Teenagers 8 to 9 hours on average
Adults 7 to 9 hours on average

 

How many hours do you sleep? - icon

Apart from age, there are several factors which can have some impact on the number of hours you need to be asleep.
These include:
• Pregnancy.
Bodily changes and transformations during pregnancy demand more sleeping hours.
• Aging.
Senior adults require the same amount of sleep as younger adults. However, as they age, sleep patterns change. They tend to sleep lightly for shorter periods of time. To compensate for this debt, they might need to sleep extra hours.
• Previous sleep deprivation.
If you are sleep deprived, the body will demand that you pay its debt. That necessitates extra hours of sleep.
• Sleep quality.
The quality of your sleep is as important as the quantity. Of you become frequently interrupted, your sleep quality could be compromised and you have to compensate for that with extra hours of sleep.

There are people who claim that they feel comfortable and rested after only a few hours of sleep. The downside is, the body might get used to this deficiency but their performance is always affected. Scientific research has found out that people with very little sleep cannot perform as well on complex mental tasks as those who get over 7 hours of sleep. Experts also suggest that if you become drowsy during the day or during boring activities, it is an indication that you haven’t had adequate sleep.

Sleep Debt - icon

Sleep Debt

If you have been sleep deprived in previous days, the amount of sleep necessary for you increases. Getting inadequate sleep created a sleep debt which can be compared to overdrawing money in a bank. Ultimately, the body will come knocking for its debt to be paid. Though your body might get used to a sleep-depriving schedule, it doesn’t adapt to it. Your reaction time, judgment and other brain and physical functions will become impaired.

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