Updated: Apr 2, 2020
What is sleep?
Sleep is differentiated by consciousness and reaction to a majority of stimuli. Sleep is the bodies natural regenerative and restorative process. Many processes happen during the event of sleep. We will delve into these processes briefly to help you further understand.
When sleeping, the brain users much less energy than it does in its awoken stage. During sleep, the body goes through two main cycles, REM sleep and non-REM sleep (NREM). These two cycles are so drastically different that they are categorised into two distinct behavioural states.
The secretion of the hormone melatonin regulates the circadian rhythm of the human body. This dictates when you begin to feel sleepy and what time you eventually fall asleep. Another factor is artificial light from devices. This can effectively 'reset' the bodies natural circadian rhythm causing prolonged periods of the awoken state.
Recent scientific studies have suggested that the appropriate amount of time for the average adult to sleep is between 7-8 hours. This begins to prolong the younger the human is, all the way up to 17 hours for newborn babies.
Three main functions occur during the process of sleep, these include:
Less than the recommended amount of sleep can impair the bodies ability to correctly restore the body and process information learnt during that day.
There are many different sleep disorders, here are a couple of examples:
Obstructive sleep apnea
Ageing can also affect a person's ability to sleep. For example, older people may find it more difficult to sleep as they may have other underlying health conditions.
Drugs & diet
Sleep quality can be dramatically increased and/or decreased by a person's diet and use of drugs. For example, someone who consumes caffeine shortly before bed will experience greater difficulty in sleeping as caffeine can suppress the release of melatonin. On the other hand, a balanced diet is almost necessary for sleep quality.
Civilisations with a lack of artificial light experience sleep much sooner than western civilisations. This is due to the circadian rhythm not being interfered with due to the exposure to blue light emitted from people's devices.
Sleep is so important and definitely underrated in modern-day society. It is really important to get a sufficient amount of sleep, consistently.