Sleep and Health: How much is enough?
Sleep and health are never even questioned until a good eight hours becomes elusive. However, during sleep the body and the brain enter very different states from being awake, and is not simply a state of “switching off” for a few hours. When sleep is limited, the interaction between sleep and health can affect your health in a very significant way.
Sleep and Health: An overview
The interaction between sleep and health has probably changed significantly over the past couple of centuries. Prior to the advent of the electric light in the 19th century, records indicate that the average person may have slept over nine hours a night. In our modern society, the average person seems to sleep about seven hours a night, with some getting much less.
Sleep and Health: Can we get by without it?
Medical science concludes that we cannot get by without sleep indefinitely, with 11 days being the record. While it has been agreed that sleep is essential to health, we’re still not sure why. Some scientists believe that the body essentially needs “down time” in order to build glucose reserves, or to exercise the neuronal circuits of the brain. Others have stated that the body simply needs to conserve energy, but in fact it seems that the body uses almost as many calories when it is asleep as when it is awake. While the precise need for sleep is uncertain, there is a continued recognition of the integral interaction between sleep and health.
Sleep and Health: Physiological changes
Sleep produces health changes in and through our physiological cycles. Sleep laboratories have found that growth hormone levels may reach a peak when people first fall asleep. This hormone is involved in cell repair, and maintaining the health of skin and muscle in adults. It is believed that another hormone testosterone is produced in the early sleep stages, which may help explain why sleep problems have been known to cause impotence in men. It is also believed that sleep assists us in processing memories. Researchers have found that it is harder for us to memorize complex information if we have not slept well.
Sleep and health: How much do we really need?
Sleep and health is quite complex and opinion is still divided as to how much we really need. Some researchers have concluded that six or seven hours a night may be fine, although Stanley Coren, a Canadian psychologist believes that many in Western society are actually sleep deprived. He concluded that this may result in accidents and undermining an individual’s day-to-day efficiency. If you’re not sure if you’re getting enough sleep, you should experiment with an hour or two either more or less for about a week and seeing how you feel in order to know how it will affect your sleep and health over the long-term.
Information adapted from Reader’s Digest Making the Most of Your Brain
Additional Information and webpage by Paul Susic Ph.D. Licensed Psychologist
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