Is Sleep Important?

by John Esposito
man sleeping in bed soundly
In modern society people tend to be overscheduled, overworked and overtired.  Time is arguably one of the most important resources we have, one that is finite and extremely limited.  This is one of the biggest reasons behind why many of us do not get adequate or the recommended amount of sleep that we should, we use this time to perform other tasks. It seems logical considering how much mystery there is behind the concept of rest in general, do we really need 7-8 hours of sleep on average daily to properly function or can we skimp on sleep and use this limited time to do other important things? man sleeping soundlyThe most obvious effect that we can see from lack of sleep is reduced cognitive ability, also known as brain fog. Sleeping prepares your body for the next day, repairing damaged pathways from the day prior as well as developing new pathways. These are both done in an effort to improve cognitive ability including learning and memory. If we do not get an adequate amount of sleep, these pathways are left unrepaired and damaged leading to forgetfulness and inability to effectively retain information.  Studies have shown that a good night’s sleep improves learning, whether it be academic, improving motor function, or remembering how to throw a baseball for example.  Sleep also allows you to make better decisions in less time,  creativity and overall cognitive ability. These same studies have shown that a lack of sleep in turn has negative effects on cognitive ability, decision making and overall mental performance.  This includes diseases and ailments as well including psychiatric issues like increased suicidal thoughts and risk taking behavior.  This all points to the effect that sleep has on our brain’s ability to communicate with the body and with itself, that the neuron connectivity is affected by how much sleep the individual in question has. Sleep has also been shown to affect our body’s ability to fight infection and disease as well. If an individual does not sleep for a necessary period of time which is usually in between 7 and 8 hours for your average adult,  the body will be more prone to disease.  This is especially important in those that already have a serious chronic disease in that lack of sleep can amplify the negative side effects associated with the particular disease in question.  For example,  an individual who is experiencing symptoms associated with alzheimer’s disease will have problems associated with memory and cognitive ability amplified if they are sleep deprived.  This means that those with an already poor quality of life will suffer even more so without proper sleep.  This is an extremely important concept to understand for those with diabetes since sleep already plays a role in blood sugar regulation and these problems are amplified exponentially in those patients. man having good sleepNot only can sleep negatively affect the ability of the individual in the short term, but can have very adverse long term effects if the problem is not remedied.  Sleep timing and duration affects endocrine function, metabolic function and neurological function.  These systems are what your body utilizes to effectively communicate with itself in an effort to maintain homeostasis. This means that these systems work around the clock, all day every day to ensure that your body is working in the more efficient and effective manner as possible. Lack of sleep will disrupt these processes and the negative effects associated with these disrupted processes can be severe if not life threatening.  This includes diabetes as we know because of the role sleep plays in maintaining proper blood sugar levels, heart disease,  high blood pressure, obesity and death. In addition to ensuring that you are getting all the necessary sleep as required by your body, it is important to take note of the warning signs your body gives you. Sleep apnea is a major concern with not just overweight people, but will the general population as well.  You may think that you are getting enough sleep because you are in bed for the proper amount of time, however if you routinely feel groggy, fatigued or have other symptoms associated with sleep deprivation you should seek medical advice.  Sleep apnea is a condition where the patient believes they are sleeping for the full duration that they are in bed but in reality your body isn’t doing so because your airways are obstructed, and you aren’t getting a full nights rest.  Sleep apnea causes the afflicted to stop breathing which can lead to problems associated with the heart and could potentially be fatal.  This is a major concern however there are various devices and products on the market that can help remedy the situation.  These include mouthpieces or retainers which are inserted in to the mouth prior to sleep which causes the airways to remain open. Those who are more at risk or suffer more so from sleep apnea can utilize devices that maintain a continuous positive airway pressure(CPAP) which is also designed to prevent the patient from ceasing to breathe.  These methods are all used so that the patient can get a full night’s rest, and through the use of these products the patient will feel more rested, will have more energy and will be able to perform better cognitively overall improving their quality of life.

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