November 06, 2019 | Articles
Sleep is Not a Four-Letter Word!
I would venture to say that most Americans look upon rest or sleep as a negative commodity, a necessary evil. When people get busy, sleep is usually the first thing that is sacrificed. If you’ve ever thought that sleep is useless, unproductive, or just a waste of time, you’re not alone. Most of us aren’t getting nearly enough sleep, and if we are, the quality of our sleep may not be so great.
Sleep is a basic need and affects every body system. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends adults get 7-8 hours of sleep per night for overall health. Sleep affects a number of daily functions including mood, memory, and judgment.
Chronic sleep deprivation – that is, not getting enough sleep on a regular basis – impacts daily functioning, and is associated with: increased appetite, increased pain, poor concentration, decreased physical and mental performance, poor memory, decreased creativity, increased errors, greater risk of accidents, depression, anxiety, etc. It is also associated with an increased risk of many health problems including: weight gain, obesity, diabetes, hypertension, inflammation, heart disease and stroke, and cancer.
People who get adequate sleep on a regular basis stress less and move more. Sleep allows your brain to process and retain what you learn and experience while you are awake, and be able to stay sharp the next day.
Sleep helps people eat healthier – make better food choices. People who are sleep deprived feel hungrier. Lack of sleep increases people’s desire for high-calorie, unhealthy foods. Being deprived of a few hours of sleep for even a day or two can stimulate the brain’s reward center for high-fat, refined carbohydrate-heavy processed foods. (Donuts calling your name!)
Restful sleep can have you energized and ready to take on the world.
For those science geeks out there (like me), you may be wondering - how do you fall asleep?
Sleep is controlled by the brain. Two processes are mainly responsible for helping you fall asleep: your homeostatic system and your alerting system.
As we stay awake for a continuous period of time, a number of processes controlled by our homeostatic system go to work to help promote sleep. The longer we are awake, the more our “sleep drive” increases. This is why the length and depth of our sleep each night will depend on the length and the depth of the sleep we’ve had previously.
Throughout the day, as our sleep drive increases, our body’s circadian system fights against it to help us stay awake. This is why many people might actually feel more alert at 8pm than at 4pm.
Light has the biggest impact on our circadian system and helps our bodies determine when we should be awake or asleep. However, our social and work schedules also influence our homeostatic system (or sleep drive). At the end of the day, when our body’s sleep drive overcomes our body’s ability to remain alert, that’s when we feel the need to sleep.
Research has shown that when our body’s sleep schedule is synched with our internal circadian system and the external light/dark cycle, we have the most restful sleep. This is why when we experience a shift in one of these systems, like when we travel across timezones or do shift/night work, people experience sleep disturbances. Overtime, shift work and frequent travel are associated with the same consequences as sleep deprivation, such as poor concentration, decreased immunity, weight gain, and increased risk of developing chronic conditions, even if individuals are getting 7-8 hours of sleep.
Take a tip from Scripture and catch a few more zzz’s this week! Your brothers and sisters in Christ will thank you. And all God’s people said… Amen.
(thanks to the NOOM app and Wikipedia for the information presented in this article)