Most of us will know that sleep is an essential part of our daily lives. However, how many of you know exactly why this is and what sleep actually does to help your body function?
Today you’re going to find out a lot more about your sleep than you may have once known!
On a basic and fundamental level, sleep keeps us alive. Without sleep, we would struggle increasingly to complete even the simplest tasks. Sleep is vital for maintaining good mental and physical health. Scientists often describe sleep as a recharging station for our bodies and minds, a way of recovering from any mental and physical exertion experienced in the day.
The majority of adults need between seven and nine hours of sleep, whilst children and adolescents need between eight to eleven hours. Children require more sleep as they are still in the process of growing physically and mentally, which sleep helps them to do.
Without enough sleep our brains struggle to work properly, affecting our concentration levels, thinking, and processing of memories. Some studies have shown that a consistent lack of sleep is linked to higher risk of certain health issues, including obesity, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, poor mental health, as well as early death. Healthier sleeping habits can help to lower the risk of contracting these diseases and health conditions.
A hormone you may have heard of in reference to sleep is Melatonin. This hormone plays a vital role in your body’s sleep cycle. Melatonin is produced in the brain’s pineal gland and released into your blood stream. The pineal gland starts producing melatonin when it becomes dark and stops when it becomes light. This helps our bodies to synchronise with the natural sunlight hours of the day.
An internal ‘body clock’ manages your sleep cycle and is in control of both when you feel tired and when you feel alert and ready for the day. This internal body clock runs on a 24-hour cycle known as the circadian rhythm. Circadian rhythms are physical, mental, and behavioural changes that happen within this 24-hour cycle. Circadian rhythms respond primarily to light and dark and affects most living things on earth.
We are primarily governed by our work schedules and alarm clocks to meet the demands of the society we live in. However, this comes at a cost. If you ignore your internal clock you can slip into bad habits and will find yourself out of sync with your body. This can lead to unhealthy sleep habits and an inability to fall asleep when you need to.
(To be continued...)