Sleep: How Important is It Really?

Contributed by Casper Sleep 

June 27, 2019  

 

            As human beings, we all have essential needs in order to exist and survive. Food, water, shelter - these are big ones we think of when we think about survival. However, sleep is one of the most crucial elements for our health and overall wellbeing. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), 1 in 3 adults do not get enough sleep. While, sleep may be difficult for some, there are many ways to overcome this adversity!

What is Sleep Exactly?

            Sleep is a crucial biological function in nearly every creature in the animal kingdom, including us humans. As we drift away into sleep, our bodies undergo a series of marked changes, separate from our wakeful state. During this time, we enter an altered state of consciousness (or unconsciousness), where our voluntary muscular movements decrease dramatically. We are unable to respond to many external stimuli, such as noises or touches. When we drift off into sleep, we go through several cycles and stages during the process.

            Our first cycle of sleep, known as Stage One, is our lightest stage of sleep. During this cycle, our brain activity differs very minimally from the waking mind - but this changes once we enter Stage Two. The second stage is a bit deeper than the first, and the sleeper will have a more difficult time being awakened. The third and fourth stages of sleep is where we enter a deep sleep; doctors refer to this as Slow-Wave Sleep (SLS). From this state, we enter the fifth and final stage of sleep, known as Rapid-Eye Movement (REM) sleep. Our REM cycle is the deepest stage of sleep, where dreaming occurs. Each cycle serves a purpose in brain and body restoration, so it is very important to try and get a full night’s sleep each evening.

Sleep Hygiene

            While eight hours of sleep a night sounds relatively straightforward and simple, life doesn’t always make it easy! Between busy scheduling, illness, stressors and changes in our daily lives, sleep can sometimes come difficult. An extreme lack of sleep, also referred to as sleep deprivation, can be detrimental to our health. Due to these circumstances, it’s important to practice good sleep hygiene. This term refers to the way in which we practice habits to keep our sleep at its most optimal. One of the most important factors in the quality of our sleep is environment. Take a moment to think about your bedroom; what comes to mind? Do you have blackout curtains, maybe a white noise machine? While these can certainly help cultivate a cozy, sleepy atmosphere, there is no substitute for a good mattress. Depending on your size, you may want to re-evaluate whether you have the proper mattress size for your weight and stature; this can greatly improve your quality of sleep.

            In our busy, tech-filled daily life, it can be very difficult to disconnect and unwind - this can wreak havoc on our sleep schedule. The blue light on our devices, such as smartphones, laptops, and tablets can give us trouble in settling down and drifting off to sleep. According to a study at Harvard University, the blue light from devices can suppress the production of melatonin, our sleep hormone. This can negatively affect our circadian rhythm, which can be described as our body’s internal sleep regulator. The best way to combat this effect is by unplugging before bed and refraining from using your phone or device while in bed.

            Sleep is crucial to our development, as well as our general health and wellness. By understanding how sleep affects us and developing a solid nighttime routine, you can greatly influence your ability to get a good night’s sleep.