Sleeplessness is increasingly becoming a major lifestyle dilemma being experienced by modern society, making it difficult for people from all age groups to have a sound sleep. It goes without saying that sleep happens to be one of the primary functions performed by our body. Given the fact that an average adult should ideally get 6-8 hours of sleep each night, we spend about one-third of our lives sleeping. In case that sounds like a waste of time, please read on.
The Importance of Sleep
Sleep is the time which allows us to relax and rest. All this while, various organs in our body, including our brain, are busy carrying out various activities. Some of these include:
- Our brain continues to sort and process the entire’s day’s events and information.
- Our muscles temporarily paralyse, especially during the REM stage of sleep, when we experience dreams.
Sleeplessness – The Sorry Side of Sleep
Sleep happens to be an indispensable part of our lives. We can cheat our diet but we cannot cheat our sleep. Sleep deprivation takes the shape of a sleep debt that sooner or later, we are bound to pay up. The more we try to avoid it, the more likely we are to doze off at any given moment. Imagine that happening while we are driving, or indulged in some potentially hazardous activity, for example, at work. This could pose a risk to our health and life. Besides, there are so many ways in which sleep deprivation hampers our day to day activities. Here’s a lowdown on some of these:
- We wake up tired, grumpy and irritated. Our decision making power is affected, and our reflexes slow down
- We experience a relative lack of creativity and logical thinking
- We get irritated at the slighted of provocation with people at work and those in personal life. This affects our interpersonal relationships.
- Sleeplessness wreaks havoc on our health and stands at the risk of suffering from various chronic diseases, including obesity, diabetes, hypertension, depression, etc.
That is perhaps why sleeping, and sleeping right for that matter, allows us to feel better both physically and mentally, and perform better during the following day. Besides, there is an important connection that sleep and health share. Apart from a couple of those mentioned above, it also includes hormone production and regulation.
Sleep and Hormone Regulation
A collection of various glands form what is known as the endocrine system. This system is responsible for secreting hormones into the circulatory system, and carrying them around to other organs. Now, there is a complex association between the sleep and the functioning of these glands. While sleep leads to an increased secretion of some hormones while we sleep, the secretion of several others is inhibited. Some examples of the former include prolactin and luteinizing, and those of the latter include thyroid and cortisol. Prolactin, the growth hormone, plays a major role in the growth and repair of our cells, all the while we sleep. Besides,
- Hormones make us feel sleepy at night
- Also, it is evident that these hormones also provide us with a wake-up call in the morning
- Hormones released during sleep make us feel hungry while sleeping or immediately upon waking up
- Hormones prevent the urge to urinate while sleeping, etc.
Sleeplessness and Sugar Levels
Sleep is also responsible for carrying out metabolic function and performing what is known as glucose homeostasis, besides regulating the secretion of insulin hormone. Insulin is a hormone that controls and regulates the amount of sugar in our blood, and converts it into energy. In the case of diabetes, it is either that the body is not able to produce enough insulin, or the body becomes insulin resistant.
A sleep-cycle consists of several different stages. Out of these, the stage of deep sleep or slow-wave sleep is believed to be the most restorative of all. Among other functions, it also plays a major role in controlling and maintaining blood glucose levels. Interestingly, the human body regulates blood levels of glucose within a very narrow range. That is perhaps why even short-term sleeplessness can affect glucose metabolism, and lead to measurable changes in hormone levels, autonomic nervous system activity and several other factors contributing to diabetes. Sleep deprivation also contributes to a reduced glucose tolerance, which is the ability to maintain euglycemia, by disposing of exogenous glucose. Considering that, those experiencing chronic lack of sleep, stand at a huge risk of developing diabetes, a chronic disease affecting over 10% of the global population. In fact, a lack of sufficient sleep does not only increase the risk of diabetes but also several other chronic diseases. These include hypertension, depression, obesity, chronic kidney disease, cardiovascular diseases, and in the rare chance, even cancer.
Been Sleeping Little, or A Little Too Much?
Interestingly, studies indicate that those who sleep for less than five hours each night are far more likely to experience high sugar levels, compared to those who slept for a decent number of hours. On the other hand, those who tend to oversleep are also highly likely to experience symptoms of diabetes. Therefore, whether we are sleep-deprived or have been sleeping too much, both tend to affect our endocrine systems ability to regulate the secretion of insulin. Perhaps, that is why the experts have been recommending 6-8 hours of sleep for an average adult.
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Author: Dr Sonica Krishan
Dr Sonica Krishan is Author and Speaker in the areas of Healthy and Joyous Living through
Ayurveda, Meditation, Yoga and other Contemplative practices. She is a leading Ayurveda
Professional in India. She is also Health Writer, Columnist, Editor, Ayurveda Consultant and
Holistic Healing Coach.