When it comes to health, sleep is as essential as a good diet and physical activity. However, the majority of people don’t get enough sleep. Lack of sleep can interfere with your body’s normal function, resulting in a high risk of physical and mental illnesses. 

Doctors often prescribe medications that contain a sleeping element. For example, at medambien, the majority of antidepressants, anti-anxiety drugs, and painkillers contain sleeping aids. You can also buy prescription and non-prescription sleeping medications for your sleep problems. 

Sleep is so important because it acts as the maintenance phase for our body.

Woman in bed, resting her head on her knees

Some of the major processes that are aided by sleep are as follows: 

  • Brain performance

Adequate sleep is crucial for normal brain function. Not getting enough sleep affects the part of the brain responsible for memory and information processing. Other brain functions affected by sleep include concentration, decision-making skills, judgment, and emotional intelligence. Therefore, getting at least 6 hours of sleep daily for healthy neural activity is necessary.

  • Emotional stability 

Getting enough sleep every night makes a person emotionally intelligent. Studies show a direct link between sleeping habits and state of mood. A 2022 study showed that people who receive more than 6 hours of quality sleep daily are better at maintaining relationships, have stronger impulse control, and seem more optimistic than those who get less than 6 to 7 hours of sleep every day. 

  • Heart health 

Getting a good night’s sleep is also important for your heart. Sleep helps lower blood pressure and, consequently, reduces the risk of heart disease as well. In the resting phase, your body releases hormones, which regulate stress and pressure. This can’t be achieved without proper sleep. Adequate sleep also decreases the risk of heart attack or stroke. 

  • Immunity 

Sleeping full hours at night also strengthens your immune system. One 2016 study showed that people who sleep longer at night had a stronger immune system than people who didn’t get enough sleep. 

When you sleep, your body heals and repairs itself. Sleep helps activate the immune system to produce cytokinins and antibodies, both of which fight against pathogens (disease-causing bacteria and viruses). Sleep deprivation decreases the number of antibodies and protective cytokinins in your blood, which results in poor immunity. 

  • Anxiety relief 

Good sleep relaxes your brain and helps ease anxiety and stress. Countless studies have shown that sleep helps relieve tension and stress from the muscles, which lets your body relax and heal. Not getting enough sleep increases cortisol levels in your blood. Cortisol is the hormone responsible for stress and anxiety.

  • Depression relief 

Adequate sleep also reduces depression in people. People who suffer from insomnia show high levels of anxiety and depression. Psychologists often prescribe antidepressants with a sleeping element. Sleep disruptions hinder the healing process of your brain, thus altering its function. This increases the risk of mental illnesses and emotional instability. 

  • Better endurance

Sleeping helps improve brain-to-body coordination. This is necessary for better balance, speed, agility, flexibility,  and endurance. Lack of sleep affects your muscles, thus causing slower reflexes and poor posture. Sleeplessness also drains your energy reserves, further affecting your physical and mental performance. 

  • Lower risk of obesity

According to a 2018 study, lack of sleep causes weight gain, especially among women. This is because sleeplessness affects metabolism. Poor sleep leads to a slow metabolism. Your body is unable to break down fats fast enough, which causes the fat to accumulate slowly. This may lead to obesity and weight-related health complications.   

Moreover, sleep deprivation causes an increase in the production of gherlin (hunger hormone), high sodium in the blood, and inflammation. All these changes lead to serious health problems, including hypertension, metabolic syndrome, eating disorders, and depression. Therefore, you should practice a good sleep regime to maintain a healthy BMI (body mass index). 

How many stages of sleep are there? 

There are 4 stages of sleep. 

  • Light sleep (Stage 1 NREM): In this stage, your muscles relax, brainwaves become slow, and your heart rate and breathing slow down. Light sleep only makes up 5% of your total sleep time. 
  • Deeper sleep (Stage 2 NREM): During this stage, your body experiences an even slower heart rate, no eye movements, and relaxed muscles. There is also a drop in body temperature. Deeper sleep makes up 45% of the total sleep time.  
  • Deepest sleep (Stage 3 NREM): This stage is also called slow-wave sleep (SWS). Your heartbeat, breathing, and brain waves become slowest during this time. The body is completely relaxed, making this stage the hardest to be awakened from. You spend 25% of your sleep time here. 
  • Dreams (REM sleep): In this stage, your eyes move rapidly from side to side, and your heartbeat and breathing speed up. Most of the dreams and nightmares occur during this stage. This phase makes up 25% of your sleep time.

How long should you sleep? 

Sleeping patterns are different in different people. Sleep hours depend on the age of the individual. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), different groups of people normally need the following hours of sleep per day: 

  • Newborns (0–3 months): 14–17 hours of sleep. 
  • Infants (4–12 months): 12–16 hours of sleep. 
  • Toddler (1–2 years): 11–14 hours of sleep. 
  • Kindergarten (3–5 years): 10–13 hours of sleep. 
  • Pre-teen (6–12 years): 9–12 hours of sleep. 
  • Teenager (13–18 years): 8–10 hours of sleep. 
  • Adult (18–64 years): 7-9 hours of sleep. 
  • Older people (65+ years): 7–8 hours of sleep. 

The bottom line

The necessity of sleep is often overlooked nowadays. Sleep is crucial for a healthy brain and body. It helps to keep the major functions of the body healthy and running. A prolonged lack of sleep can lead to many mental and physical health disorders, such as anxiety, depression, high blood pressure, obesity, weak immunity, and poor cognitive function. Therefore, you must sleep at least 6 hours daily to maintain normal body functions.