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The importance of sleep

There are four stages of sleep:

  • Stage 1 is a light sleep where everything begins to slow down including your heart rate.

  • Stage 2 is also a light sleep which is just before you go into a deep sleep, your temperature has decreased, and your eye movements have stopped.

  • Stage 3 is a deep sleep where your eyes and muscles don't move at all, and your brain waves have completely slowed. This is where your body replenishes your energy and repairs cells.

  • Stage 4 - REM sleep which stands for "Rapid Eye Movement" your eyes will begin to move rapidly from side to side behind your eyelids. This is the stage that your brain processes and stores information. This is also the stage where you are most likely to dream.

On average we spend a third of our lives sleeping!

When we sleep it helps with learning and memory functions, forming new pathways and processing information in our brain.

If someone is sleep deprived, there will be physical changes in the way the brain functions and the individual may struggle with problem solving, controlling emotions, and retaining information. Overworked neurons cannot function to coordinate information properly and often lose their ability to access previously learned information. Sleep is the key to our brain consolidating memories from the day and prioritising information that needs to be stored.

Sleep also plays a key part in your bodies physical health as this is when your cells repair and heal. This is also the time that your body releases hormones and sort of does a full reset. Almost like taking a car in to a garage to have the oil level and water levels checked your body does its own refilling with hormones and repairing of cells like a nightly service!

When you are exhausted it can affect your entire body meaning you will not perform well in any area of your life. Neurons will not work at a high level; your muscles aren’t rested so will ache and your organs and internal systems will not work at full capacity! You will also notice that your mood is greatly impacted, and you will struggle to have any enthusiasm.

Poor levels of sleep are also linked to weight gain in an extensive study it was found that adults with a short sleep duration were 55% more likely to develop obesity. The level of sleep you have can result in weight gain due to how your body releases hormones and lack of motivation to exercise when tired.

There are many reasons why people struggle to sleep one of which is depression. It has been estimated that 90% of people with depression complain about their sleep quality.

When it comes to the amount of sleep you need everybody is different and some can function on a lot less sleep than others.

Typically, you need less sleep as you get older with the average amount of sleep a teenager needs being 8-10 hours, the average for an adult being 7-9 hours and the average for those over 65 is 7-8 hours.

Teenagers typically need more sleep as their bodies are going through a lot of changes during this stage like puberty, so the mind and body need more time to process these changes while they sleep.

Here are some tips to help you get more sleep:

  • Exercise regularly

  • Reduce bedroom distractions

  • Reduce blue light time in the evening

  • Avoid caffeine later in the day

  • Keep a regular sleep cycle (similar bedtime and wake up time)

  • Try and introduce wind down time or meditation before bed

Sleeping well is very important and should come hand in hand with a healthy diet and exercise to improve your health both physically and mentally.


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