When was the last time you awoke really refreshed after a good night’s sleep? Can you even remember what it feels like?
In this age of being super-busy, rushing everywhere, how often do we pause during the day to rejuvenate? Even five minutes of really being still and present can be as restful as one hour’s sleep. So why do we keep on keeping on?
Sleep is absolutely vital for our body...
we can’t do without it. It is required for ongoing maintenance and repair of the physical body, as well as integration of the processes that lay down our memories and allow brain connections to occur. In other words, not enough sleep over a long period is detrimental to our health and our mental functioning.
A big issue for many people is ensuring that they sleep for a sufficient length of time. For most of us, it’s about 7-8 hours per night. It’s not essential that we remain asleep for the entire time. In fact, the brain cycles through a number of brain wave patterns, going into deeply restorative delta-wave sleep for a time, then moving into the higher theta and even alpha-wave frequencies.
If the length of time spent sleeping is too short, the body doesn’t get the benefit of the deep brain-wave state where the main restoration work is done. Alternatively, the sleeper may remain in higher brain wave states, such as alpha, and never dive into the more restorative theta and delta frequencies.
In other words, you can end up chronically tired and sleep deprived because:
You’re not allowing enough time for sleep
You’re unable to get to sleep or you remain awake for prolonged periods (this is known as insomnia)
Or, you remain in a higher brain wave pattern that doesn’t provide sufficient restoration of body and mind that sleep provides.
Other factors influencing lack of sleep include:
Anaemia due to iron deficiency
So what happens during sleep that is SO important:
The brain forms connections that help you process and remember information.
Our cerebral cortex, or thinking brain, requires rest in order to keep us mentally alert the next day.
The motor cortex requires rest in order to maintain our balance.
Rest is essential for the immune system and digestive system.
Vital maintenance of physical systems ensures that hormones and neurotransmitters are balanced; lack of maintenance includes a higher risk of chemicals that cause inflammation.
With insufficient sleep, the usual symptom then is feeling chronically tired during the day. Tiredness is just the body’s way of signalling it needs rest and sleep, so this is natural.
If the tiredness persists for longer, you move into a state of fatigue. Fatigue is a persistent feeling of tiredness or exhaustion that goes beyond normal sleepiness. It’s usually a sign that something is not right; that the body is not able to keep up.
Difficulty concentrating and making decisions
Reduction of short and long-term memory
Mood swings and mood changes such as anxiety or depression
Weakened immune system
At risk of diabetes, as the body releases higher levels of insulin after eating
Increased risk of high blood pressure and heart disease
Weight gain, as body’s signal that we’re full is disrupted
Lower sex drive and reduced fertility
Poor balance and increased risk of accidents or injury.
Sleep – good restful sleep – is one of Nature’s most profound gifts and is absolutely vital for health and wellbeing.