Self-education

Understanding Healthy Sleep: Resting is as Beneficial as Sleeping

The Science of Sleep and How Electronic Devices Affect Your Sleep

Reading time – 9 minutes.

Exercise, relaxation, and sufficient rest will help you do better and enjoy your life more. Taking care of the body and mind can make a big difference in your overall health and help you cope with changes. “It might take time and effort, but it’s worth it,” states Dr. Michael J. Schiller, a psychology professor at the University of California, Berkeley.

Summary

  • The importance of sleep cannot be overestimated – it is as vital in our daily routine as water and food;
  • Despite its significant role in our health and well-being, a troubling percentage of people worldwide are deprived of regular and sufficient sleep and find themselves tired during the day;
  • You can overcome this negative trend by taking actions that will make it easier for you to fall asleep, stay asleep, and wake up well-rested.
  • Incorporate some habits that will improve your sleep hygiene and feel fit during the day using our tips!

Takeaways

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 Introduction to the Science Behind Sleep

Sleep and most of our daily functions follow a 24-hour cycle called the circadian rhythm that works as an internal body clock. It is controlled by external cues such as light and darkness and internal compounds that help maintain our sleep.

Three main chemicals work together to keep our body clock in check: adenosine, melatonin, and cortisol. Adenosine slowly builds the desire for sleep throughout the day; the chemical melatonin produces drowsy feelings that signal your body is ready for sleep. Finally, when the body is well-rested, cortisol naturally prompts it to wake up.

While sleep duration can vary significantly across the world, most adults are still not getting the recommended 8 hours of sleep. On average, a person gets about 6 -8 hours of sleep on a typical weeknight.

Better Understanding of Healthy Sleep

In today’s fast-paced world, good sleep has become a form of indulgence. It has fallen to the lowest of our priorities – behind work, maintaining a social life, and entertainment. However, healthy sleep should not be a luxury, and not keeping it may cause severe physical and mental health problems in the long run.

Despite custom pillows, nighttime teas, and seemingly necessary bedtime facials, Americans are desperate for quality sleep. Sleeping well has tons of obvious benefits, such as feeling more alert and not dependent on five espresso shots to get through your morning. A good night’s sleep can positively impact our bodies in subtler ways in the long run.

Getting enough sleep is beneficial for muscle tissue repair, restore energy in the body, and activate hormones responsible for our growth and appetite. The right amount of high-quality sleep is also critical to our ability to learn and process memory. 

Just like exercise, the perfect amount of sleep depends on age. The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute suggests at least 11-12 hours for preschool-aged children, 10 hours for school-aged children, 9-10 hours for teens, and 7-8 hours for adults. 

Sleep quality is also essential and is determined by how much time you spend in REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. REM is one of the most rejuvenating of the five sleep cycles and should account for a quarter of the total sleep duration. For example, an adult who sleeps 8 hours a night should spend about 2 hours in REM sleep.

Although sleep is a relatively new research area, it accounts for one of the most important yet often underrated aspects of human health. We know that sleep is necessary to maintain critical body functions, repair muscle tissue, restore energy, and let the brain process new information. Similarly, we also know about the potential side effects of chronic sleep deprivation, including but not limited to heart diseases, diabetes, and cancer. 

If you don’t get enough sleep chronically, it affects your work or personal life. If you face such a problem, talk to your primary care doctor to discuss whether you have a sleep disorder.

The Ultimate Benefits of Sleep for Our Bodies

    • Maintaining our Immune Systems

The primary role of some hormones is making us sleepy. The other hormones vary in amounts throughout the sleep-wake cycles to carry out other responsibilities, including regulating our immune systems. 

Cortisol is another valuable hormone responsible for controlling the immune system and lowering increased blood flow and pain whenever inflammation occurs. Too little sleep can disrupt the cortisol rhythm and keep high hormone levels going for longer. This hormone controls other biological processes that strengthen our immune system, but sleep can also play a significant role.

In the early 2000s, researchers administered hepatitis A in two groups of people, allowing one to sleep as usual while the other had to stay awake more than usual. The well-rested group developed a 40 percent higher response in their immune systems to the vaccine than the other group. 

The researchers concluded that the results had nothing to do with suppressing the immune response in adults with cortisol, as hormone levels in their bodies did not significantly increase. Instead, other sleep and immune factors work for the well-rested participants

  • Keeping Us Active

Poor sleep or its lack, especially in the early morning hours, is associated with weight gain, especially for older adults. “What’s interesting is that I don’t think that we are confident about why that is,” noted Kendra Krietsch. She studies sleep in teens and adolescents at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center. Krietsch has researched how sleep affects teenagers and synthesized the results from various studies in pursuit to figure out why disrupted sleep causes weight gain in adolescents.

Many popular theories do not seem to apply in this particular area of research. For instance, a lack of sleep does not appear to reliably increase or even decrease leptin production, a hormone that regulates hunger and satiety. 

Instead, studies have shown that teenagers who don’t get enough sleep are less physically active and have extended screen time. However, the researchers are uncertain whether sleep, less time exercising due to tiredness, or other factors are at interplay. 

From her experience with patients, Krietsch has found that sleep problems might question how much of it is required for adolescents in a critical development stage. The researcher noted that numerous competing demands overlap, such as maintaining a social life, adjusting to more difficult academic course loads and homework, etc. 

Being connected to your phone or other personal devices to work, talk to friends, and leisure doesn’t quite correlate with an early bedtime. If that wasn’t enough for teenagers to handle, studies have shown that circadian rhythms occur several hours later after puberty, making them naturally more likely to fall asleep around 11 pm. If they require the full recommended 8 hours of sleep and abide by them, they will most likely oversleep their school start times, often requiring prompt arrival by 7-8 am.

“That’s just a very poor mismatch of biology and what we expect of teenagers,” Krietsch says. Some studies have indicated that shifting the first school bell could improve teenagers’ academic performance and alertness. Krietsch says the new research will be undertaken soon based on a school district that agreed to switch to their schedule. 

The net health effects of sleep are intricately connected, so it can be difficult to distinguish how sleep alone affects the body and mind. According to Krietsch, the research observes that those who generally get less sleep have lower-quality diets. However, it is noteworthy that low-income families who cannot afford a nutritious diet may also live in more stressful conditions that affect sleep quality. 

Nevertheless, there is a silver lining between the findings of such researches. As Krietsch says, “Health behaviors hang together,” meaning that you could set a chain reaction of visible and invisible benefits by merely improving one habit, such as sleep.

For example, most people don’t get the sleep they need because they don’t go to bed at the right time. Only by diverting special attention to your bedtime you can positively affect your health and well-being.

How Much Sleep Do You Need?

As you age, you may need to adjust the amount of sleep you’re getting.

According to the National Sleep Foundation’s guidance, you should aim to maintain the amounts of sleep listed below:

Recommended Amounts of Sleep Based on Age

Age Recommended Amounts of Sleep
6 to 13 years old 9 to 11 hours
14 to 17 years old 8 to 10 hours
18 to 64 years old 7 to 9 hours
65 and up 7 to 8 hours

Source: https://www.healthline.com/health/healthy-sleep#how-much-sleep-do-you-need?

Visualizing the World’s Sleeping Habits

Sleep quality, patterns, and duration may vary from country to country and from individual to individual. Nevertheless, a strikingly common finding is that people still are not getting enough sleep. While some people can function for a few extra hours without a nap, others reach for their second cup of morning coffee instead of catching a few extra Zs. 

Today’s graphic from Raconteur.com highlights some startling takeaways from the 2019 Philips Global Sleep Survey, which surveyed over 11,000 adults from 12 countries. Let’s settle in to discover what impacts our sleeping habits have on our lives, including sleep hygiene and factors that could help us sleep better. See the graph below.

Sleep Deficiency in Population Worldwide

Is Resting as Beneficial as Sleeping?

You know the feeling of being unusually tired, but napping just isn’t an option? During these moments, you may wonder whether it would be equally helpful to close your eyes, put your feet up, and leave your head free for a few minutes. The short answer: not quite. But it’s an excellent honorable mention.

Sometimes referred to as quiet wakefulness, resting with your eyes closed can calm your mind. Since you’re not actively thinking or concentrating on something, you can give at least some of your neurons a break and allow your organs and muscles to relax. In short, resting in such a manner can improve your productivity by reducing stress, improving mood, and increasing alertness, mental clarity, creativity, and motivation.

While this technique does not immediately increase your ability to remember new information or help your cells repair or regenerate themselves, you get a significant cognitive boost in the deeper stages of slumber. Also, actual snooze time helps by releasing hormones that regulate growth, appetite, and satiety, to name a few.

Your body needs both sleep and rest in moderation. Taking a rest can be thought of simply giving yourself a break from the overwhelming pressure of a long day. Resting can be done anywhere and in any position by meditating or taking part in visualization or deep-breathing exercises. The important thing is to give your mind and body a chance to recover and recharge when you’re feeling out of steam.

How Electronics Affect Sleep

The world is full of gadgets, and technology is becoming increasingly popular at work and for entertainment – with the evening hours being no exception. One survey carried out by the National Sleep Foundation found that 95% of people use some kind of computer, smartphone, or video game an hour before bedtime at least a few nights a week.

Scientists have discovered that the light emitted from the display screen of some of our favorite devices also has great potential to disrupt our natural sleep patterns. The adverse effect of gadgets is associated with circadian rhythm’s sensitivity to shorter wavelengths of light, mainly blue light in the 460-nanometer range of the electromagnetic spectrum.

Such light tends to be concentrated in devices like computer and smartphone screens, and energy-efficient bulbs, and has been proven to delay the release of melatonin. As we have discussed earlier, this crucial chemical produces drowsy feelings that signal your body is now ready for sleep.

In other words, electronics could make you feel charged before bed, and it may take time for your body to become aware of the technology’s alerting effects. If your find it hard to fall asleep or stay asleep, you should turn off your electronics at least an hour before bedtime and stow them away from your bedroom. Instead, try winding down after a long day by reading a book or sleeping in a dark room.

Conclusions

Sleep benefits go beyond mental health or feeling energized – your body also needs quality sleep to function correctly. If you are still struggling with getting proper sleep, consult with a primary care doctor to discuss whether you have a health problem that requires attention.

Not getting enough sleep may cause you to wake up feeling exhausted or having difficulty concentrating. Additionally, chronic sleep deprivation may put you at a higher risk for poor health conditions, such as headaches, diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and depression. 

Try to stay in the suggested guidelines for the amount of sleep. On the contrary, getting too much sleep can also be problematic for your health. Be on the lookout for any distractions that may cause you to put off your bedtime.

Recommendations 

We hope this article was helpful to reflect on your current sleep habits and think about improving them! It may be difficult to fall asleep faster. So, you should try to calm before going to sleep. You can relax all your body and mind only by walking for 20 minutes every evening or meditating. We recommend that you not use the phone or any other device at least an hour before bedtime and take them away from your bedroom.

Final Remarks 

On average, we spend around one-third of our lives sleeping. Have you ever had insomnia or been deprived of sufficient sleep? There is no substitute for adequate sleep at night: it affects our ability to concentrate and make appropriate decisions. 

Think of all the good things that happen to your mind and body when you get enough sleep, and make it a priority to sleep well. Can you think of any perks of rest or sleeping habits you would like to share with others? If you have any unique ways of going to sleep earlier, let us know in the comments below!

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