Importance of Sleep
Sleep is vital for your well-being and survival. Without sleep, your body and brain wouldn’t work properly. While you rest at night, your brain forms the neural pathways that let you learn and remember information and create new memories. Your body and brain stay active while you sleep to help protect your health and quality of life. In children and teenagers, deep sleep plays a vital role in promoting growth and development, triggering the production of growth hormones.
Once the lights switch off, the pineal gland, located in the brain’s two hemispheres, increases the production of the hormone melatonin, which helps put you to sleep. In other words, melatonin informs your body it’s nighttime, so you can relax and fall asleep.
A Lack of Sleep Effects
Sleep is a complex process that affects almost every organ. Some of the main functions of sleep include physical restoration and mood regulation. Sleep also helps strengthen the immune system and clean the brain of toxins that accumulate during the day.
A chronic lack of sleep distresses every system in your body, from the brain and heart to your mood and immune function. Studies show that getting a poor quality of sleep increases the risk of chronical physical disorders, including diabetes, kidney disease, stroke, cardiovascular disease, obesity, and depression.
Research also shows that a lack of sleep increases the risk of obesity in all age groups. Sleep helps keep up a healthy balance of ghrelin and leptin, the hormones that increase and decrease your appetite, making you feel hungry or full. Sleep deprivation raises the level of ghrelin at the same time lowering the level of leptin, making you feel hungry.
Sleep deprivation can also affect your balance and coordination, making you more prone to injuries and accidents.
Cognitive Functioning and Mental Health
If you constantly lack sleep, you may find it difficult to think clearly, concentrate, remember things, solve problems, and make decisions. Sleep deprivation can also compromise your mood and emotional control. Furthermore, a chronic lack of sleep impacts your emotional health, affecting how you react, manage emotions, and get along with others.
Children and teens who lack sleep have problems with impulse control, and experience often mood swings. They may also lack motivation, feel depressed, stressed, and isolated. Sleep deprivation in children and teenagers can also cause attention difficulties and poor academic performance.
Other mental health risks include:
- Impulsive behavior
- Suicidal thoughts
How to Improve Your Sleep
The best way to prevent sleep deprivation is to get enough sleep during the night. In general, adults need 7 to 9 hours of sleep. Avoid or limit daytime naps and go to bed at the same time each night. Spend an hour before sleep relaxing. Read a book or meditate and refrain from using electronic devices right before bedtime. Studies show that using electronic devices before bed affects your circadian rhythm (your inner clock), suppressing the release of melatonin and making it harder to fall asleep.