Let’s sleep well. We spend at least of our lifetime asleep, but still, functions and regulatory mechanism of sleep are not fully understood.
There are many theories and studies that have proven the benefits of sleep on memory, neuroplasticity, biosynthesis of chemicals, helping to detoxify and excretion of waste products from the body, even prophylactic cellular maintenance. Moreover, there is a well-known importance of sleep in mood regulation and balancing energy requirements of our body.
Sleep also plays a vital role in metabolic activities of our body, any disturbance in sleep are having a direct effect on health from simple agitation to ischemic heart disease. We need to sleep well, there are reports that lack of sleep is linked to mental and physical ailments such as poor concentration, stress, road traffic accidents, cognitive errors, and physically there are suggestions that it is linked with cardiovascular disease. How much do we need to sleep?
Sleep requirements are variable throughout the life cycle, as the national sleep foundation suggested, the minimum sleep requirement for young adults is 7-9 hours of good quality sleep. Both the quality and quantity of sleep are important. Sleep is divided into two major stages Rapid Eye movement (REM) and Non-Rapid eye movement (NREM).
Both these stages of sleep are playing vital functions in the sleep process. For example, NREM sleep serves as a restorative phase and satisfies metabolic needs, whereas REM sleep is when new information is processed and stored into our memory banks. Sleep process is controlled by two processes as a circadian process (daily) rhythm. This is controlled by a central “biological clock” (Suprachiasmatic nucleus – SCN) Several inputs also influence this clock, especially light and melatonin. Sleep is also a homeostatic process, the longer we are awake the more sleep debt we accumulate.
Being Psychiatrists, we are dealing with sleep problems for patients as we know prolonged sleep deprivation sometimes lead to ego disorganization, hallucinations and delusions. As well as this, REM-deprived patients may exhibit irritability and lethargy. What can be done to help to have a good quality of sleep? Studies have suggested NREM sleep is increased after exercise, so regular exercise can play an important role here. We also need to consider some relaxation tips to have a refreshing sleep. Sleep hygiene can be adopted, addressing simple tasks such as caffeine intake can be immensely helpful.
Personal experiences can be shared with others. There are psychological therapies such as CBT that can be considered and pharmacological intervention is also available for sleep problems. Taking some time for our self is also crucial. Our physical and mental health wellbeing can help us to work and cope better the demands of our lives. Let’s take a positive step towards a more pleasant day tomorrow with a refreshing sleep by adopting simple steps from sleep hygiene techniques for our patient’s and our wellbeing. There is a huge number of free online resources that are also available to help sleep well.