You have probably heard your doctor, a parent or even friend emphasize the importance of getting enough sleep, but have you ever wondered why sleep is important and why you should be getting 7.5+ hours of sleep a night? It is because sleep plays a vital role in maintaining our physical and emotional health.
Memory Consolidation and Cognitive Brain Function
We create and store memories at a surprisingly fast rate, and our bodies require sleep to help consolidate and retain them. Sleep is the ideal time for the brain to move new memories into long-term storage. Our bodies are in long periods of rest and our brains activate a different part of the memory process; consolidating newly created memories into our long-term storage where we can easily recall them. However, when people experience extreme cases of sleep deficiency, many suffer from lapses in their ability to store and recall these memories.
Sleep deficiency also slows down cognitive functions of the brain, which can make learning tasks or lessons more challenging. A lack of sleep can cause people to feel less alert and makes concentrating on tasks like learning in a classroom or driving a car more difficult to focus on. Not only can sleep deprivation make learning more difficult, but sleep deficiency can also make it more challenging to recall memories once we’ve learned them.
Have you ever walked out of a meeting or a lecture and felt unable to recall everything that happened? People, unfortunately, experience this while driving as well, reaching their location only to realize they don’t remember parts of the journey. This phenomenon is called Microsleep, fleeting moments of sleep when you would normally be awake.
The possible ramifications of Microsleep are clear in the case of drivers briefly falling asleep at the wheel, but it can have a broader personal and emotional impact on many people suffering from a lack of sleep. It can affect the quality of education for students and the ability for healthcare workers, emergency responders, and other professionals to safely do their job. It can also impair performance in daily tasks and affect emotional health. Many people describe themselves as feeling angrier or more depressed when they are lacking adequate levels of sleep.
Sleep and Heart Health
While sleep is vital for healthy brain function, it plays an equally important role in our heart health. Our body is able to repair and restore our blood vessels during sleep cycles each night. The body uses uninterrupted periods of deep rest to lower our heart rate and blood pressure. In more extreme cases, sleeping disorders like sleep apnea, which causes patients to wake up frequently throughout the night, can put patients at a higher risk of conditions like congestive heart disease because it interrupts the extended periods of rest the body needs.
What do sleep and the common cold have in common? Well, if you don’t have one, you may be more likely to get the other. A recent study showed that participants who averaged less than 7 hours of sleep a week were more likely to catch a common cold than participants who received 8 hours of sleep or more a night. This is in part due to the increase in the levels of inflammatory mediators in cases of sleep deprivation, which can put us at a higher risk of infections.
Why Sleep is Important
and What You Can Do About it.
Sleep may seem like something we would always like to get a little more of, but the truth is that getting the right amount of sleep every night is very important for our general health. If you are concerned you may be suffering from a sleeping disorder, schedule an appointment with our sleep specialist at the Crittenton Sleep Center. Our team works with each patient to analyze and diagnose sleep disruptions and provide a treatment plan. Learn more about sleeping disorders at the Crittenton Sleep Center today.