Every year, the Friday before the equinox in March is World Sleep Day, organized by the World Sleep Day Committee of the World Sleep Society. This is the day to celebrate sleep as well as a call to action on important issues related to sleep, including medicine, education, and social aspects. Why is sleep so important?
Sleep is vital to your health and to your happiness as getting enough sleep has positive effects on both your physical and mental health. Sleep is just as important as regular exercise and having a balanced diet.
Physically, sleep helps in the healing and repairing of your heart and blood vessels. It also makes sure that the hormones which regulate how hungry or full you feel are properly balanced, so that you do not crave food when your body doesn’t actually need it. This helps you to maintain a healthy weight.
For children and teens, deep sleep allows the body to produce and release the hormone that promotes regular growth. The same hormone, somatotropin, also boosts muscle mass and helps repair cells and tissues in people of all ages. Sleep also helps the immune system to stay healthy, so it can fight common infections.
On the mental side, sleep helps your brain to work properly. When you sleep new neural pathways form in the brain which help you to learn and remember information, and it improves your problem solving skills. Sleep also helps you to pay attention, make decisions, and be creative. So whether you have to go to school the next day or have a long day of work ahead of you, enough sleep will help you through the day.
Sleep deprivation or a lack of enough sleep works in the opposite way of getting enough sleep. While enough sleeps helps you to keep a healthy weight, sleep deprivation can increase the risk of obesity. Physically, sleep deficiency increases your risk of heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and stroke.
Studies have shown that sleep deficiency alters activity in certain parts of the brain in a negative way. It can cause you to have trouble making decisions, solving problems, controlling your emotions and behaviour, and coping with change. Sleep deprivation has also been linked to increased feelings of stress and problems paying attention. Finally, studies have shown that sleep deficiency can be associated with depression, suicide and increased risk-taking behaviour.
There is no one answer to this question, it differs per person. Most adults need between 6 and 9 hours of sleep every night, while kids need more. The youngest, up to 1 year old, should get anywhere between 12 to 16 hours of sleep a day including naps, while teenagers need 8 to 10 hours a night.
Getting enough sleep every night can be difficult but it can help to set up a routine for yourself, work out what time you usually have to get up in the morning and use that to decide when you should go to bed regularly. Catching up on lost sleep doesn’t help when it is a regular thing, so better to make it the exception to the rule. Everyone will have their own routine, the most important thing about it is that it works for you and provides you with enough sleep and you can stick to it.
In 2022, World Sleep Day falls on Friday 18 March, the theme and slogan this year is Quality Sleep, Sound Mind, Happy World. The aim every year is to raise awareness around the importance of sleep. So consider what do you believe to be the components of quality sleep, how does sleep affect your mental health, mood, and decision-making, and how do you rate sleep in the context of your overall health?