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Sleep is a necessary part of our lives, and we spend almost a third of our lives sleeping. Yet, there is still much that is unknown about sleep. Read on as we explore some interesting facts about sleep that you may not have known before.
Sleep is not a Passive Activity
Contrary to popular belief, sleep is not a passive activity. Our bodies are actively working to repair and restore themselves while we sleep. During sleep, our brains consolidate memories, and our bodies produce hormones necessary for growth and development.
We Sleep in Cycles
We don’t simply fall asleep and stay asleep for eight hours straight. Instead, we sleep in cycles that last around 90 minutes each. These cycles include non-REM sleep and REM sleep. Non-REM sleep is divided into three stages, with the third stage being the deepest sleep. REM sleep, which is associated with dreaming, occurs in between non-REM cycles.
Lack of Sleep can have Serious Consequences
Not getting enough sleep can have serious consequences. It can affect our cognitive abilities, making it difficult to concentrate and make decisions. It can also affect our emotional well-being, making us more irritable and prone to depression. Chronic sleep deprivation has been linked to a number of health issues, including obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.
Our Sleep Needs Change as we Age
As we get older, our sleep needs change. Infants need up to 17 hours of sleep per day, while adults typically need around 7–9 hours of sleep per night. Older adults may have more difficulty sleeping due to changes in their sleep patterns and health issues.
Sleep Quality is just as Important as Quantity
It’s not just about getting enough sleep, but also getting good quality sleep. Factors such as noise, light, and temperature can all affect the quality of our sleep. It’s important to create a sleep-conducive environment and establish a regular sleep routine to ensure we get the best possible sleep.
Dreams can be Influenced by External Factors
Our dreams can be influenced by external factors, such as our environment, experiences, and emotions. This is why we may have vivid dreams after watching a scary film or experiencing a traumatic event.
Some People can Function well on Less Sleep
While most people need 7–9 hours of sleep per night, some people can function well on less sleep. These individuals are known as “short sleepers,” and they make up only about 1% of the population.
We Cannot “Catch Up” on Lost Sleep
Contrary to popular belief, we can’t “catch up” on lost sleep by sleeping in on the weekends. While a few extra hours of sleep can make us feel better temporarily, it doesn’t make up for chronic sleep deprivation.
Sleepwalking is a Real Phenomenon
Sleepwalking, also known as somnambulism, is a real phenomenon that occurs during deep sleep. It is more common in children, but can occur in adults as well. Sleepwalking can be dangerous, as the individual may engage in activities such as driving or cooking while asleep.
Snoring can be a Sign of a more Serious Condition
While snoring may be annoying, it can also be a sign of a more serious condition, such as sleep apnoea. Sleep apnea is a condition in which breathing is repeatedly interrupted during sleep, leading to poor sleep quality and other health issues.
Sleep or the Lack of it can Affect our Weight
Sleep plays a role in our weight and metabolism. Lack of sleep has been linked to weight gain, as it can affect hormones that regulate hunger and metabolism.
Napping can be Beneficial
Napping can be a beneficial way to boost energy and improve mood. However, it’s important to keep naps short and avoid napping too close to bedtime, as it can interfere with our ability to fall asleep at night.
Blue light can Disrupt Sleep
Blue light, which is emitted by electronic devices such as smartphones, TV’s and laptops, can disrupt our sleep. This is because it suppresses the production of melatonin, a hormone that regulates our sleep-wake cycle. It’s important to limit our exposure to blue light in the evening to promote better sleep.
Our Sleep Needs Vary
Our sleep needs vary depending on a number of factors, including our age, genetics, and lifestyle. While some people may function well on 6 hours of sleep per night, others may need 9 hours to feel their best.
Sleep is Essential for Overall Health and Wellbeing
When it comes to our overall health and well-being, sleep is an essential element. It helps our bodies repair and restore themselves, and also plays a critical role in our cognitive and emotional functioning. It’s important to prioritize good sleep habits to ensure we feel our best.
FAQs About Sleep
Q. How much sleep do I really need?
A. It varies depending on a number of factors, but most adults need 7-9 hours of sleep per night.
Q. Can I make up for lost sleep by sleeping in on the weekends?
A. No, sleeping in on the weekends doesn’t make up for chronic sleep deprivation.
Q. How can I improve my sleep quality?
A. Creating a sleep-conducive environment, establishing a regular sleep routine, and avoiding stimulating activities before bed can all improve sleep quality.
Q. What should I do if I have trouble sleeping?
A. Talk to your doctor if you have persistent trouble sleeping, as it may be a sign of an underlying condition or a sleep disorder.
Q. Is it normal to dream every night?
A. Yes, it’s normal to dream every night. Most people have several dreams per night, although they may not always remember them.
Sleep is a complex and fascinating process that is essential for our physical and mental health. By understanding the importance of sleep and implementing good sleep habits, we can ensure we get the best possible sleep and live our lives to the fullest.