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January 22, 2020 | Farah Jassawalla

Why is sleep health important?

A good, restful night's sleep is one of the most fundamental prerequisites for a healthy life. However, changing lifestyles in today's era are disrupting the sleep patterns of numerous people worldwide. Sleep is not merely a time when the body relaxes or rests but also an active period that allows the body to carry out various restoration and strengthening activities. The number of hours of sleep varies according to age: adults need at least 7-9 hours of sleep while children aged 6-11 need 1-14 hours of slumber. A disturbed sleep pattern leads to irritability, agitation, and unexplained mood swings.

Sleep health is vital because of a number of reasons. An interrupted night's sleep has a profound impact on your mental and physical health because while you are sleeping, your brain consolidates memories and prepares itself for the next day. Thus, healthy sleep patterns tend to improve your memory and hone your analytical skills. A study published in the British Journal, The Lancet, concluded that a good night's sleep can significantly impact the psychological health of people. A lack of sleep tends to affect the parts of the brain that are responsible for our emotional health, mainly by disrupting the connection between two parts of the brain: the amygdala and the prefrontal cortex. Therefore, the amygdala becomes about 60% more active than the average level, causing adverse effects on your emotional health.

Sleep deprivation does not only cause distress, emotional instability, and depression but also has adverse effects on your cardiovascular health. Various studies have revealed that adults who have a compromised night's sleep are at a higher risk of acquiring heart diseases such as asthma and cardiac failure. A lack of sleep is also detrimental to your cardiovascular system because it causes high blood pressure; high blood pressure is one of the primary causes of strokes. In addition, sleep deprivation can also lead to changes in your hormonal balance by interfering with the hormones that regulate hunger and appetite. This results in obesity, which also poorly affects your cardiovascular system. It's not only the hormonal balance that is disrupted, but sleep-deprived people may be too tired to exercise. The vast amounts of calories consumed while being awake at night are not oxidized effectively by the body. Sleep health is essential to maintain a healthy heart because when you are asleep, your body repairs your heart and blood vessels. Therefore, if you want to keep safe from heart diseases and strokes, then set a proper sleep routine.

Sleep health is also essential for maintaining an efficient immune system. When you are sleeping, proteins called cytokines are released in your body; cytokines help promote sleep and reduce inflammation in your body. Certain cytokines are also associated with combating internal infection. Sleep deprivation hinders the production of these cytokines and some antibodies. Thus, the body's ability to fight infection reduces considerably as a result of a lack of sleep. In order to bolster your immune system, you need to at least get an eight-hour sleep during the night. A weak immune system means that your body is unable to protect itself from infections or recover from any ailments.

Sleep health is integral to a life of good quality. Sleep allows your muscles to rest and gives your vital organs a chance to repair themselves. A disturbed sleep pattern can be the reason behind your excessive physical fatigue, emotional instability, or high blood pressure. Just like a machine, your body needs a cool-down phase in the form of rest. Getting quality sleep is certainly one of the best things you can do for your body!

Farah Jassawalla

Farah Jassawalla is a graduate of the Lahore School of Economics. She is also a writer, and a healthcare enthusiast, having closely observed case studies while working with Lahore's thriving general physicians at their clinics.