How do we know if sleep is important for a healthy living? Try missing it for just a day. Sleep deprivation can cause an irresistible drive to sleep and restlessness. This ‘sleep rebound’ we experience is an intense drive to sleep even during times when we would typically be awake.
The importance of a good night sleep lies in the effects of sleep on the brain and the body. One of the main characteristics of sleep is behavioral quiescence and reduced motor activity. Sleep is an adaptive mechanism of mind and body.
The function of sleep is no longer a mystery.
Jerome Siegel writes in his article, “Sleep in animals: A state of Adaptive inactivity”:
Sleep can be seen as a form of adaptive inactivity lying on this continuum. What is most remarkable about sleep is not the unresponsiveness or vulnerability it creates, but rather its ability to reduce activity and body and brain metabolism, but still allow a high level of responsiveness relative to the states of dormancy described previously. The often cited example of a parent arousing at a baby’s whimper but sleeping through a thunderstorm illustrates the ability of the sleeping human brain to continuously process sensory signals during the sleep period and trigger complete awakening to significant stimuli within a few hundred milliseconds.
Three recent studies done on the effects of Sleep come to mind:
1. Sleep disturbance negatively impacts the memory consolidation and enhancement that usually occurs with a good night’s sleep. Memory, by combining past events with new information, can help make better judgements in our routine life. That is why a restful sleep helps you to think sharply.
2. Specific brain region that contributes to a person’s appetite sensation is more activated in response to food images after one night of sleep loss than after one night of normal sleep. Poor sleep habits can therefore affect people’s risk of becoming overweight in the long run.
3. During sleep, our muscles relax to almost a paralyzed state. This is probably why a good night’s sleep helps loosen up all those tense muscles resulting from stressful day’s work.
That is why restorative sleep, along with regular exercise and nutritious food completes the trinity of healthy living. Regardless of the exact mechanisms of how sleep works, it is clear that adequate sleep is necessary for healthy functioning.
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