Sleep – A Blessing for Our Brain

Do you feel sleepy in a meeting and try to stifle a big bold yawn? Perhaps it’s the boring presentation, or the uninspiring presenter, or it could just be that you are sleep deprived and are not aware of it. It is true that many of us tend to ascribe several different reasons for feeling sluggish, fatigued, or irritable during the day. When we find that we are unable to focus and pay attention, we think that just some rest and perhaps a good night’s sleep will help us get back on track. What we don’t realize is that perhaps we need to be more mindful of our sleep patterns and ask ourselves: how many hours of sleep are we getting each day?

Different facets of sleep

Sleep is very critical for our body to function optimally and every human being spends approximately one third of his/her life sleeping. Research on sleep suggests that while we are asleep, every tissue in our body goes into ‘repair’ mode. In fact scientists are suggesting that sleep affects every system in the body – from the brain, heart, lungs to the immune function and even our metabolism.

Sleep has 2 stages of sleep called the REM (Rapid Eye Movement) and non-REM sleep. Non-REM sleep according to National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), is further divided into 3 stages. Each of us goes through both these 2 types of REM and non-REM sleep,which is responsible for how well one has slept, or how refreshed one feels on waking up. Sleep patterns and sleep requirements change as we age. Babies sleep 16-18 hours, whereas adults usually sleep anywhere between 7-9 hours and the older we grow, the less we tend to sleep. It is extremely important to get enough sleep because a lack of good, restful and deep sleep is known to cause several disorders and illnesses including:

  • Weight gain or obesity – feeling lethargic and therefore not exercising enough. The effect of sleep deprivation on our hormones can lead to further weight gain
  • Risk of heart disease – just like the 4Ss, lack of sleep too can result in an increased risk of heart disease and stroke.
  • Risk of Type 2 diabetes – healthy adults sleeping for only 5-6 hours every day show an increased incidence of pre-diabetes.
  • Depression – The quality of sleep or being sleep deprived is found to be one of the key complaints that people with depression make.
  • Sleep apnea–an obstruction when we breathe leading to loud snoring can lead to breathlessness, moments during sleep when we don’t actually breathe and caneven lead to death rarely.