Sleep is one of the most important factors affecting a person’s health.
It is often something that is not considered, this is because time that used to be reserved for relaxation and sleep (evenings) is now more often used for various other activities, including work, travel, exercise and socialising.
The National Sleep Foundation (NSF) states that sleep is a basic human need and is just as important for good health as diet and physical activity.
A good night’s sleep allows the body to wake up fresh and invigorated, ready to face the coming day’s challenges. Too little sleep results in daytime drowsiness, inability to concentrate, increased risk of accidents and reduces overall productivity and performance.
In the long term, sleep deprivation has been linked to premature ageing, digestive disturbances, psychological problems, behavioural disturbances and a myriad of chronic diseases, which include lowered immunity (Nelson et al, 2005), insulin resistance, obesity, diabetes, heart disease (NSF) and even cancer (Stanford school of medicine, 2004).
Sleep is often considered a passive activity, but while the body rests the brain is active.
During sleep the body passes through 5 stages: 1,2,3,4 and REM (rapid eye movement).
1 – The lightest form of sleep can be considered the transition from drowsiness to sleep (during this stage the body can easily be woken).
2 & 3 – The transition to stage 4.
4 – The deep sleep stage. Deep sleep coincides with the release of growth hormone (especially in children and young adults), subsequently deep sleep allows for physical repair and regeneration of many of the body’s cells.
REM – The final stage of sleep which is thought to stimulate the brain regions used in learning. REM sleep is especially important during infancy. Scientists suspect that this is why infants spend much more time in REM sleep than adults.