Some people, especially the younger generation, think that they can go on days without sleep and not be concerned of its negative effects on their well-being. In the few hours that they allow their body to sleep, they’re likely to wake up feeling weary and stressed because their body was not able to relax by way of deep sleep.
Sleep deprivation as a lifestyle is definitely unhealthy because it adversely affects a person’s physical appearance. It can also lead to impairment of immunity and mental health in the form of depression. Sleepless nights or days fog a person’s brain; making it difficult for him or her to think clearly and focus on important tasks and/or make rational decisions.
In older people, sleep deprivation can lead to serious health problems such as high blood pressure, stroke, heart attack, heart failure, low sex-drive or even obesity. While such people tend to have different reasons why they deprive themselves of sleep, the effects of chronic sleep deprivation will eventually catch up and cause different health problems.
The Anatomy of Sleep
During sleep, our brain experiences switches between periods of wakefulness and sleep that is regulated by the ebb and flow of neurotransmitters. In a normal eight-hour sleep, the brain goes through three stages of sleep, as follows:
Stage 1 is described as light sleep, which lasts for about 5 to 10 minutes. While our eyes are closed, our eye movement and muscle activities in this stage are just beginning to slow down. If something jolts us awake from our light sleep, whether intentionally or unintentionally, our brain and body will still feel tired and sluggish, as if we have not slept at all.
Stage 2 is that condition when our light sleep will produce periods of muscle contractions occurring in between moments of muscle relaxation. This is when our body temperature starts to drop, our eye movement stops, while our heart rate, as well as our brain waves slow down. What the body will experience during this stage is called “sleep spindle,” a condition that prepares the body to go into a deep sleep.
Stage 3 is the deep sleep state, a condition in which the brain produces very slow brain waves. Deep sleep is the most important stage of our sleep cycle, which lasts for about 1 to 2 hours. Occurring after completing the first two stages, it will make us feel rested and feeling relaxed when we awake.
During the first half of a normal, uninterrupted 8-hour sleep, our body experiences a longer period of deep sleep. The period becomes shorter as we near completion of each sleep cycle.
Why is Deep Sleep Important
The following are important reasons why every person needs to experience deep sleep as part of their sleeping habit:
Deep sleep is that period in which the body is able to focus on cell restoration and repair by increasing the production of proteins. Proteins act as receptors of nutrients to promote cell growth and repair cells that have been damaged by elements in the environment and by free radicals.
While going through the deep sleep stage, our blood pressure is reduced, relaxing the arteries in ways that allow blood to flow freely. A freely circulating blood throughout the body, makes for proper distribution of nutrients in all body tissues.
A body going through a deep sleep will also receive sufficient amounts of human growth hormones (HGH), through an essential compound known as collagen. The HGH are powerful rejuvenators of cells as they act as regulators of the body’s metabolic functions and auto-immune responses. These functions, when not properly regulated, could lead to hormonal imbalances that increase risks of developing diabetes and heart diseases.
While not all people are able to maintain an 8-hour sleep cycle, they should at least have enough hours of slumber that reach the deep sleep stage; giving the body time to restore, repair and rejuvenate.