As the Irish Proverb goes, ‘A good laugh and a long sleep are the best cures in the doctor’s book.’ Just as a machine can wear and tear as a result of zero refrain times, so do humans stand a risk of total depreciation without sleep and rest. As a matter of fact, everyone knows that sleep is important but may sometimes deny that truth for varied reasons including the quest for money and aspirations. Whatever be the case, the scientific environment is crystal clear on the relevance of sleep to humans. Insufficient or lack of sleep may be detrimental to one’s quality of life. Despite the wonderful nature of sleep, we still don’t really know what it is and why it affects our body and soul the way it does. However, what we know is that, for many who have insufficient amount of it, they are at a higher risk of developing some conditions at some point in their life course.
What then is sleep?
According to Dr. Ananya Mandal, sleep is a state where awareness to environmental stimuli is reduced, but differs from states of coma, hibernation and death by the fact that it can be rapidly reversed. This period of a rest of the mind and unawareness of environmental stimuli is as important as eating, breathing or drinking. Without sleep, we are likely to function poorly. While sleep does not guarantee that you will not fall sick, lack or insufficient amount of it will make you sick sooner and more frequent.
Why is sleep necessary?
As stated earlier, sleep is an essential aspect of our daily living as humans. Not only does sleep help to restore our physical strength, it also plays a critical role in repair and restoration of our brains. This is why people are encouraged to have a good night sleep prior to an exam, test or interview. It rejuvenates the brain and prepares it to function effectively in the day. Again, during the process of sleep, we are able to reorganize our thoughts, process information and consolidate our memories as well as undergo critical maintenance for the body. Subsequently, this helps to enhance our emotions, alleviate stress, boost our immunity to fight infections as well as reduce the risk of premature death.
This means that sleeping disorders like insomnia can have a significant impact on our lives as humans. Insufficient amount of sleep or lack of sleep itself can increase one’s risk to cardiovascular diseases, obesity, hypertension and lower immunity. In this era of COVID-19, insufficient or lack of sleep may significantly impact on your immunity and predispose you to severe form of the coronavirus. An individual’s mental health is likely to be marred by insufficient sleep. Mental health events like anxiety and depression are more likely to be prevalent among people who do not have sufficient sleep. Again, sleeping disorders may cause you to feel restless and thereby lead to chronic stress and negatively impact on one’s quality of life. It may even lead to diseases which will in turn affect one’s sleep. Hence, the individual will be caught in a loop of sleeplessness and that can seriously affect the person’s mood, concentration and social relationships as well as reduce productivity.1 “Among older adults, the cognitive and medical consequences of untreated sleep disorders decrease health-related quality of life, contribute to functional limitations and loss of independence, and are associated with an increased risk of death from any cause.” 2
The Way Forward
Given that sleep is important to our physical, mental and social wellbeing, it is imperative that we take it serious. Making time to have sufficient sleep is crucial. This can be done by following these tips:
- Recognize the importance of sleep: the first step is to recognize and appreciate that sleep is beneficial to your health and wellbeing. This will make you prioritize your sleeping hours and prevent any interfering factors from hindering your sleep.
- Maintain a regular sleeping pattern: the human body and brain works with an in-built clock. Fluctuating your sleeping pattern distorts balance in your body and may have serious consequences on your wellbeing. There is no strait-jacket approach to this but it is recommended that we sleep for an average of 7-9 hours daily. Preferably, going to bed before 10pm will be much beneficial. Whatever be the case, examine yourself to see the number of hours of sleep that impacts positively on your body and soul.
- Check your diet before sleep: avoid caffeinated beverages and drinks when you want to sleep. Caffeine keeps you awake and may distort your sleep. Also, avoid going to bed on a full stomach. Try some light foods or fruits around that time. Taking heavy food may take time for digestion to complete and in the case of a stomach upset or heart burns, it will be difficult to sleep. So save yourself all this trouble and eat lightly at night.
- Avoid stressful situation before your sleep: Often, we resolve or discuss serious issues at night when everyone is asleep. This may seem rational but it seriously affects your sleep. The mind will not rest after such arguments or discussion. So resolve all issues in the daytime. Also, try to take the television permanently out of the bedroom; this can significantly improve your sleep. All other interrupters (i.e., phones, laptops, tablets, etc.) must be put aside to enjoy a good night sleep.
Sleep is very important and must be taken seriously and prioritized by all. A good sleep may protect you from diseases and improve your overall quality of life. Make a conscious effort to have sufficient sleep and reap its healing power.
By: Joshua Okyere
Population Health Analyst ( [email protected] )
- Philip P. Sleepiness of occupational drivers. Ind Health. 2005 Jan;43(1):30-3. [Review].
- HealthPeople.gov, “Sleep health,”. Retrieved from: http://healthypeople.gov/2020/topicsobjectives2020/overview.aspx?topicid=38