Love being a late night owl? No wonder why everyone around us has big dark circles around their eyes nowadays. One might also consider why they have poor memory, confusion and an impaired capacity to take firm decisions on their own.
Sleeping for 7-8 hours is not only important but also essential in today’s era of the fast pacing modern world. But what’s more important is - to sleep at the right time. Go to bed by as early as 9.30 pm and wake up by 6 am depending on the need of the body.
Going to bed early truly makes a person healthy, wealthy and wise!
Why is Sleep so Important?
Day by day the newer studies are concreting the known and suspected relationships between inadequate sleep and a wide range of disorders, including
Hypertension i.e. high blood pressure
Impaired immune functioning
Obesity and type-2 diabetes
Neurodegeneration and dementia
Cardiovascular disease and arrhythmias
Mood disorders and depression
Let’s see how Sleep is your Superpower.
A good night sleep regulates so many processes in our body-
Sleep impacts your hormonal balance
Sleep and the circadian rhythm that is body’s internal clock, play an important role in regulating the production of numerous hormones including:
Melatonin, which helps promote sleep
Growth hormones, which supports metabolism as well as bone and muscle development
Cortisol, a hormone released as the body’s stress response system
Leptin and ghrelin, which help control appetite
The fluctuating hormone levels during different stages of sleep, and quality of sleep may also affect daytime hormone production. Mood swings are largely a direct result of not having enough sleep. Getting up early in the morning to prepare breakfast for the family, women generally tend to lose more sleep as they are the ones who go to bed at the last and most likely to wake up first in the house, hence making them more vulnerable to suffer from mood disorders. Hence women need more sleep as compared to men.
Sleep has a role in inflammation.
While we are sleeping, our immune system releases a type of small protein called cytokines. If we are sick or injured, these cytokines help the body to fight inflammation, infection and trauma. Without adequate sleep, our immune system might not be able to function at its best.
Deep sleep ensures that the body is healing from the core. Therefore it’s best to sleep by 10 pm as 10pm-2am is the time when the body can get deep sleep and rest. Compromising on the quality of sleep also results in the poor functioning of the immune system and body directly affecting the mood. This is the reason why some individuals are exhausted even after sleeping for a good 8 hours. Sleeping on time is very crucial to ensure the quality of sleep.
Sleep helps in obesity and weight reduction
Insufficient sleep creates hormone imbalance in the body that promotes overeating and results in weight gain. Ghrelin and leptin are the two hormones that regulate appetite. Inadequate sleep leads to alteration in the production of these hormones in a way that creates increased feelings of hunger.
Additionally, insufficient sleep can impair the metabolism of food as well. Hence making people feel fatigued and lethargic all day long which makes it impossible for them to get some exercise which might help in weight loss.
Restricted duration of sleep has been shown to cause a greater tendency to choose high-calorie foods, as the effects of sleep loss on weight unfortunately are not just limited to changes at the chemical level. Calories consumed during the late hours at night post dinner increase the risk of weight gain.
Sleep and migraine connection
Research shows a link between sleep deprivation to a number of headache disorders. Migraine is the most painful headache, which most often affects individuals when waking up in the morning.
The hypothalamus is that part of the brain which regulates sleep and arousal, it also contains neurons involved in modulating pain. The hypothalamus also contains the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN), which receives signals from our eyes and helps us match our sleeping behaviours to the external cycle of light and darkness outside. If this SCN is damaged, it might cause erratic daytime sleep and disrupt the sleep-wake cycle.
The pineal gland is another vital part of the brain involved in sleep, which produces melatonin. Melatonin is a sleep hormone which helps us in falling asleep when we recognize the change between day and night. Low levels of melatonin have often been linked to cluster headaches and migraines, as well as waking up with headaches.
A good night’s restful sleep can relieve the migraine symptoms while they are ongoing but sleeping extensively can also make the problems worse. The term “weekend migraine” is used to refer to migraines which commonly occur in individuals sleeping in on the weekends to make up for lost sleep during the week.
The relationship between migraines and sleep deprivation is also bidirectional. It means that not only sleep disturbances can trigger migraines but migraines can also negatively impact our sleep. That means migraines can leave an individual feeling completely exhausted and excessively sleepy, which may disrupt the sleep-wake cycle.
Recommended duration of sleep for adults is between 7-8 hours per night for optimum health, while children may need more sleep, due to important developments taking place in their body and mind. Additionally, to make sure you are making the most of your restful sleep, it is essential to practise good sleep hygiene.
Key points for a good sleep hygiene-
Form a habit of going to bed at the same time each night. The human body naturally operates according to a clock, and when it’s time for bed, your body naturally becomes tired.
Wake up at the same time each day. Sticking to a sleeping and waking pattern keeps the body in tune with its natural clock.
Exercise daily. Incorporating regular exercise into your schedule is proven to improve sleep quality.
Spend time outdoors in natural sunlight each day. Receiving natural light from the sun produces serotonin which is a chemical precursor to hormone melatonin. Melatonin is integral for getting quality sleep.
Keep your bedroom clean, uncluttered, and well-ventilated.
Turn off all electrical devices, WIFI, and phones while in bed.
Avoid using computer screens, cell phones, TV, etc. at least two hours before your bedtime – rather read a book!
Drinking calming sleep tea before bed. E.g. chamomile tea
Using organic bedding like mattresses, sheets and pillowcases can help improve the sleep quality.
Use sleep to build a strong immune system. Sleep like a baby!
Increase Your Melatonin Levels naturally to get a Better Night's Sleep
Dim your lights at night.
Reduce screen time.
Cut back on coffee.
Get some sun on your face during the daytime.
Eat the right foods.
Increase relaxation and reduce stress.
Okano, K., Kaczmarzyk, J.R., Dave, N. et al. Sleep quality, duration, and consistency are associated with better academic performance in college students. npj Sci. Learn. 4, 16 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41539-019-0055-z
St-Onge, Marie-Pierre, et al. “Effects of Diet on Sleep Quality.” OUP Academic, 1 Sept. 2016, academic.oup.com/advances/article/7/5/938/4616727.
Hristovska, I., Robert, M., Combet, K. et al. Sleep decreases neuronal activity control of microglial dynamics in mice. Nat Commun 13, 6273 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-022-34035-9
Sulaman, B.A., Wang, S., Tyan, J. et al. Neuro-orchestration of sleep and wakefulness. Nat Neurosci (2022). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41593-022-01236-w