Why is healthy sleep so important in our lives?

10 facts about the importance of sleep for health

In countries where the clocks change from daylight saving time to winter time this Sunday, people will get an extra hour of sleep. But how much do we really know about sleep and how it affects different areas of our lives?

1. The well-known "eight hours of sleep".

We often hear that we should get eight hours of sleep a night. This is a recommendation from national health organizations all over the world, from the British NHS to the American National Sleep Foundation. But where does this advice really come from?

Studies conducted in different countries to determine how often disease affects different groups of people come to the same conclusion: people who suffer from sleep deprivation, as well as those who sleep too much, are more susceptible to many diseases and live shorter lives on average.

However, it is difficult to say whether sleep disorders are the cause of diseases, or vice versa - a symptom of an unhealthy lifestyle.

By "too much sleep," we usually mean less than six hours; "too much sleep" is more than nine to ten hours.

Children under puberty are usually recommended to sleep up to 11 hours at night, and infants up to 18 hours a night. Nighttime sleep for teenagers is thought to be up to 10 hours.

Shane O'Mara, professor of experimental brain research at Trinity College Dublin, says that while it is difficult to answer definitively whether lack of sleep is a cause or a consequence of poor health, the two phenomena have a reciprocal effect on each other.

For example, people who don't pay enough attention to exercise sleep worse, which makes them more fatigued and, as a result, less energy to exercise - and so on.

We know that scientists again and again link chronic sleep deprivation - that is, not getting enough sleep for one or two hours over a long period of time - to poor health: it is not necessary to go to bed for several days in a row to notice the negative effects of not getting enough sleep.

2. What happens to your body when you don't get enough sleep?

Lack of sleep can lead to a number of diseases.

The results of 153 studies involving more than five million people clearly show a connection between lack of sleep and diabetes, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, coronary artery disease and obesity.

Pattern: The effects of sleep deprivation on the body

Studies have shown that a lack of sleep for just a few consecutive nights can drive a healthy person to a pre-diabetic state. Moderate lack of sleep reduces the body's ability to control blood glucose levels.

Inadequate sleep reduces the effectiveness of vaccines, and sleep deprivation has a devastating effect on the immune system, making us vulnerable to infections.

In one study, participants who slept less than seven hours were three times more likely to catch colds than those who slept seven or more hours.

Sleep-deprived people produced excessive amounts of ghrelin, the hormone responsible for hunger, and insufficient amounts of leptin, the hormone that causes satiety, thus increasing the risk of obesity.

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It has also been noted that sleep deprivation is associated with reduced brain activity and even, in the long run, dementia.

Professor O'Mara explains that toxic substances accumulate in the brain during the day and are removed during sleep. If you don't sleep long enough, your condition "resembles a mild concussion."

The effects of sleeping too long are less studied, but it is also known to be associated with a number of disorders, including impaired brain function in older adults.

3. Different types of sleep help the body recover

Our sleep consists of cycles that are divided into several stages. Each cycle lasts between 60 and 100 minutes. Each stage plays a different role in the many processes that go on in our bodies while we sleep.

The first stage in each cycle is the drowsy, relaxed state between wakefulness and sleep. Breathing slows down, muscles relax, pulse slows down.

The second is a slightly deeper sleep, during which you may be asleep but still think you are awake.

The third stage is deep sleep, when it is very difficult to wake up, any activity in the body at this point is at a minimal level.

The second and third stages enter the slow sleep phase, usually at this time a person does not dream.

After deep sleep, we return to the second stage for a few minutes, and then move on to the fast phase of sleep, which is usually accompanied by dreams.

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