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Sleep is important. On a busy day with countless demands, it may not look like a priority – but cutting back on a few hours of sleep may have a major impact on your health and wellbeing.
The world is a wonderful place and there are so many things to see and do. Getting a good night’s rest may not look so appealing by comparison. However, just like nutrition and exercise, which many also be neglected due to our busy lifestyles, sleep is essential for optimal health and happiness.
Sleep affects your cognitive function as well as your physical health. Sleep helps your brain work properly and not getting enough sleep impairs your ability to concentrate, retain information, make decisions, solve problems and control your emotions. Your body and brain doesn’t shut off when you sleep. It actually works harder. When you sleep, your brain is busy managing a variety of biological maintenance that keeps your body running in top condition. So, if you don’t get enough sleep, you won’t be able to work, learn and communicate at your true potential. Keep this up and you end up with major mental and physical breakdown.
On average, we spend 24 years of our life sleeping. Researchers conducted a test on how much sleep for each night. The group of people who slept for 8 hours “exhibited few attention laps and cognitive issues”. However, after two weeks of maintaining this sleep cycle, the group of people who got six hours of sleep showed a similar reaction time of a person with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.1%, which is considered legally drunk. Their brain function decreases day by day almost linearly without any sign of levelling off. Prolonged sleep deprivation causes us to build up a “sleep debt” because the amount of sleep that they lose accumulates over time.
So, can we recover from our “sleep debt”? Yes, we can. A few nights of quality sleep is all you need. However, long-term sleep deprivation on a scale of weeks to months requires many nights of quality sleep because the recovery of cognitive function is much slower. On a time scale of months to years, it is unknown whether brain function could be fully repaired or if it causes permanent damage.
You’re probably wondering how much sleep you need each night now? Well, most studies tend to show that seven to eight hours is the ideal amount for humans. People who consistently sleep for less than seven hours each night are prone to heart disease, obesity and diabetes. Not to mention, a 12% higher risk of death. On the other hand, consistently sleeping over eight hours each night carries an increase risk of heart disease, obesity, diabetes and a 30% increase risk of mortality.
I better go to bed now. Got to avoid these health risks. Just to make sure!