Contributed by – Healthians Team

“It’s hard to sleep when the heart and body are at constant war with your mind”,  this is a very trivial fact experienced by most of us. The situation has only gotten worse in the ongoing pandemic. With high levels of stress and anxiety, getting good sleep has become difficult. But, in times like these, lack of sleep will only do more harm. Thus, it’s important for you to recognize whether or not you’re getting enough sleep and why you should take steps to fix your sleeping scheduling.

Importance of a Good Night Sleep

Sleep is that golden chain that ties health and our body, so well said by Thomas Dekker. A good night sleep between seven to nine hours is recommended for staying healthy and optimally efficient. Sleep is the time for some brain functioning and development.

  • It helps in the healing of the damaged cells.
  • It gives a boost to the immune system.
  • It helps in recovering the body from the day’s activity.
  • It recharges and prepares the heart and the cardiovascular system for the next day.
  • It helps to improve concentration, productivity and memory.
  • It reduces the risk of heart diseases and stroke.
  • It improves the quality of your skin and keeps it glowing.
  • It helps in lowering blood pressure.

Getting enough good quality sleep at night helps to protect the mental and physical health and it also maintains the quality of life. Having difficulty in falling asleep can cause sleep deprivation and in some cases sleep disorders which can lead to multiple problems ranging from feeling lazy to weight gain or a high risk of road accidents. Before moving on to the signs of sleep deprivation or the various issues that it can cause, it is essential to understand the sleep cycle.

sleep requirement of different age groups

Know your Sleep cycle

Sleep cycle gives us an inside about the activities going on in our brain when the eyes are shut. This sleep cycle lasts for about 90 minutes and consists of two recurring phases:

  • Rapid eye movement (REM): This stage takes almost 20-25 % of the total sleep cycle and is the dreamy phase (that is the dream occurs in this phase). It includes the burst of rapid eye movement, that is the eyes arrows back and forth, up and down but they are not constantly moving.
  • Non-rapid eye movement (NREM): This stage occupies around 75-80% of the sleep cycle. The health benefits which we get while sleeping are mostly in this stage, these include tissue growth and repair, restoring the energy and release of the essential hormones for growth and development.

Irrespective of the time you sleep, a person experiences more of NREM in the early sleep in the early hours of the night and more REM in the late hours.  If these cycles are interrupted during the night due to waking up multiple times, snoring, difficulty in breathing or due to any other reason, some of the vital functions get missed out, leaving its effect on our health.

What happens when you don’t get enough sleep?

The amount of sleep required on daily basis changes with the course of our life. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine gives the standard sleep recommendation (AASM) as follows:

Age Recommended Amount of Sleep
Infants aged 4-12 months 12-16 hours a day (including naps)
Children aged 1-2 years 11-14 hours a day (including naps)
Children aged 3-5 years 10-13 hours a day (including naps)
Children aged 6-12 years 9-12 hours a day
Teens aged 13-18 years 8-10 hours a day
Adults aged 18 years or older 7–8 hours a day

Sleep Debt: If a person on a daily routine is sleeping less than the recommended hours, the sleep loss adds up and the total sleep loss is termed as sleep debt. Bad sleep habits and a long-term sleep loss will have an impact on the health.

effects of sleep deprivation

Signs you are not getting enough sleep

If the body is not getting recharged by cycling through both the NREM and REM cycle, then it will reflect on the person’s health. Some of the common signs and symptoms that mirror you are sleep deprived are:

  • Feeling drowsy, irritable, annoyed or depressed
  • Breakouts on the skin, this is because the immune systems get impacted
  • Craving for unhealthy or junk food
  • Having redness, puffiness, dark circles or bags around the eyes
  • You start gaining weight
  • Having more caffeine or soda
  • Difficult to focus and the memory feels dim
  • Waking up with a sore throat, dry mouth or a headache

Being sleep deprived night after night puts your body, nervous system and overall health under immense stress and strain. Certain medical conditions could affect your sleep pattern like heart failure, heart diseases, obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, ADHD, depression, etc. If experiencing any of these signs and symptoms, then the best decision is to consult a doctor.

The body needs its rest and sleep is one of the essential parts of any health and fitness regime, so make sure you get enough of it!