• Saahithi Madhuvarsu

The Importance of Sleep

68% percent of Americans struggle with sleeping at least once a week. Why does this happen? And is there any way you can avoid this? In this article, I will cover what’s going on in your body when you sleep, why sleep is essential, and the after-effects of not getting enough sleep.


Non-REM

After you fall asleep, your body goes through some cycles. The first cycle is called non-REM. REM stands for repeated eye movement. This has four stages. In the first stage, you are between being awake and falling asleep. In the second stage, your heart rate, breathing, and body temperature all decline, or become a little slower. Finally, in the third and fourth stage, you go into a deep sleep.


REM


After you complete the non-REM stage, you go into REM. A couple of things happen when you are in this cycle. First of all, true to its name, your eyes repeatedly move behind your eyelids. Your brainwaves are similar to how it is when you are awake, or when you are active. Your breathing rate accelerates, and eventually, your body is paralyzed as you dream your sweet dreams. On a typical night, you will switch between non-REM and REM 4-5 times.


Circadian Rhythms


But how do we know when to wake up or fall asleep? Two processes make your sleep complete. The first process is called Circadian Rhythms. The Circadian Rhythm knows when your body needs to wake up. How? When your eyes sense light, your Circadian Rhythms will tell your body that it needs to get active and wake up. That's why when your mom comes into your room and pushes away the curtains, letting all the sunlight pour in, you just have to get up. For people with blindness, their Circadian Rhythm doesn't work as well. Their eyes can't sense any light, and their Circadian Rhythm doesn’t know if they should stay asleep or get up.


Sleep Drive


The second process is called Sleep Drive. The Sleep Drive understands when you need to fall asleep, or when you are exhausted. The Sleep Drive allows your body to have micro-sleep, where you fall asleep for 1-3 seconds. But this will only happen once you are super sleepy.


Why is sleep important?


But... why is sleeping so important in the first place? Well, any new information you get will be stored in the brain. Since there's so much information in the brain, it needs time to clear out the unneeded information. If you don't get enough sleep after learning, when you wake up, your brain will be all clogged and foggy. Lastly, there are so many brain cells, your body needs time to process everything.


Insomnia


Some people can't sleep at all. Why? It's because they have a disorder called insomnia. When someone has insomnia, they can't fall asleep and have trouble staying asleep. There are different types of insomnia, and one of them is called acute insomnia. Acute insomnia only lasts for a short period and it usually happens the night before something important, like a test, or public speaking. Insomnia is usually caused by disturbing things in life, like when you are having personal issues, or other problems in life, like when you have been given disturbing news. Insomnia can cause things like fatigue, low energy, trouble focusing, mood swings, and bad performance in work or school.


Narcolepsy


Some people can fall asleep at any time of the day! This is a sleeping disorder called Narcolepsy. When you have Narcolepsy, you can fall asleep at any time of the day, even in the middle of your Social Studies lesson! They will have extreme fatigue, hallucinations, sleep paralysis, and can oversleep. Narcolepsy is something you get when you are born and depending on the family's genes, some people are at a higher risk of narcolepsy.


Sleep’s impact on growth


But can sleep have any impact on your growth? Yes, it can. If you are not sleeping enough, your growth will be stunted. This is because, when you are sleeping, normally your growth hormones are released, so if you don't get enough sleep, your growth will slow down.


Sleep’s impact on mental health


Sleep can also affect your mental health. If you are not sleeping properly for a long period, you will get emotionally unstable. You will have a lot of negative thoughts and can be more vulnerable to sleeping disorders like insomnia. However, if you are consistently sleeping for a good amount of time, you will be mentally/emotionally strong.


You can avoid all of these problems by getting good sleep. Make sure you're not making a habit of sleeping too late or waking up too early. If there are any problems you are facing, go to someone you trust, and talk about it. Don't get too stressed out.


I hope you learned a lot of important things about sleep, and please share your thoughts in the comment section below. Thank you!



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