Importance Of Sleep For Mental Well-Being And Physiological Functions

We have all experienced sleep deprivation, where our minds pound as we struggle to think, our eyes cannot keep themselves open and our limbs feel too heavy to lift. The majority of the time, during this state, we instantly wish we were infants. It was the last time we slept for 14–17 hours per day and only woke up for food or to play. As we grow older this becomes nothing but a pipe dream. In comparison, our sleep requirement decreases to 7–9 hours per day as an adult, (the requirements are provided by an 18-member multidisciplinary expert panel convened by the National Sleep Foundation). Simply put as infants we undergo the highest and fastest rates of development. For the mind and the body to sustain these changes, we sleep, while our body produces growth hormones to facilitate the changes and at the same time conserve our energy for other activities. Over time, the rate of development slows down, consequently the amount we sleep changes.

The importance of sleep is paramount every single day. A recent study published in the Annals of Behavioral Medicine showed the drastic effects of lack of sleep on the body within a span of just 8 days. The demographic included 2,000 middle-aged adults who were relatively healthy and well-educated. Changes in their sleep routine by 1 ½ hour of less sleep resulted in a pile-up of angry, nervous, lonely, irritable and frustrated feelings. They also experienced more physical symptoms, such as upper respiratory issues, aches, gastrointestinal problems and other health concerns. These negative feelings and symptoms were continuously elevated throughout consecutive sleep loss days and did not return to baseline levels unless they had a night sleep of more than six hours (Lee, 2021).

A silver lining of this pandemic is directly related to the morning sleep schedules of students across the globe. A study reported that during the covid era, teens felt physically and mentally better, had more energy, we’re able to focus better during lessons and did not dread the new remote school (Talib & Harris, 2021). This was owing to the extra amount of sleep students were getting by eliminating the travel time between home and school.

Now by referring to the previously stated studies we can clearly understand how important sleep is for the way we feel physically and mentally, along with our abilities to behave, perform and think within the norm of a situation. Setting aside all the knowledge you may have obtained that factually represents how sleep is the gold mine of health, let us look inwards. Have you ever felt that you could just not concentrate on eating your breakfast or even after eating you have felt unsatisfied? Have you experienced difficulty in spelling out frequently used words or simple calculations on an odd day? Have you felt unnecessary amounts of irritation or lack of alertness even during your favorite lecture? Now think about the amount of sleep you may have had leading up to these days. Majority of the time it is less than sufficient.

My point is that sleep is the fundamental physiological process that regulates numerous aspects of the human body and mind. Dr. Michael Twery, a sleep expert at The National Institutes of Health, said and I quote — “Sleep affects almost every tissue in our bodies. It affects growth and stress hormones, our immune system, appetite, breathing, blood pressure and cardiovascular health.” The cause and effect relationship between sleep and health has been well established. There is a reason why the side effects of most medications related to allergies, depression, anxiety or blood pressure result in an increased state of drowsiness. The active state of sleep is restorative and energizing.

In conclusion, sleep is the captain of the ship, at the helm, steering our mental well-being and physiological functions. Let us mindfully follow a consistent sleep routine that would help us feel relaxed, happy and healthy inside out.

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