Why we need sleep

March 17 is celebrated worldwide as World Sleep Day.

What is sleep all about?

According to Wikipedia, it is a state of reduced mental and physical activity in which consciousness is altered and sensory activity is inhibited to a certain extent. During sleep there is a decrease in muscle activity and interaction with the surrounding environment that are significantly reduced.

Why is sleep so important for the health of human beings? It is because it is during sleep that our body is working to support healthy brain function to maintain our physical health. In young children and teenagers, sleep helps support growth and development. Inadequate sleep over a period of time can raise the risks for chronic (long-term) health problems.

Photograph courtesy of Pexels/Keira Burton
during sleep, our body is working to support healthy brain function to maintain our physical health.

According to Mayo Clinic, there are six steps to better sleep.

1. We must stick to a sleep schedule. We must set aside eight hours for sleep at night. Let us endeavor to go to bed and get up at the same time daily if possible. Being consistent reinforces our body’s circadian rhythm, which is our sleep-wake cycle.

2. We must pay attention to what we eat and drink. We must ensure that we have eaten two hours before sleep so our food is digested. Nicotine and caffeine can affect our sleep cycle so we must avoid smoking and drinking too much alcohol before bedtime.

3. Create a restful environment for sleep. Keep the room cool, dark and quiet. Make sure your bedsheets are clean including pillow cases. Avoid prolonged use of light-emitting screen just before sleep. Turn off gadgets and mobile phones. Play soothing soft music. Meditation also clears the mind. A hot bath also helps. Use the time before bed to do your cleaning rituals for the face and moisturizing the body.

4. Limit daytime naps to no more than an hour. Avoid napping late in the day.

5. Include physical activity in your daily schedule. Regular physical activity can promote good sleep but avoid doing it before bedtime.

6. Manage worries. Try to clear your mind of any problems before bedtime. Be organized. Write down your priorities for the next day so that your mind is freed of anxieties and deadlines which creates a better mindset for good sleep.

Our circadian rhythm which is the 24-hour internal clock in our brain regulates cycles of alertness and sleepiness by responding to light changes in our environment. It is therefore primordial for us to ensure that this 24-hour rhythm is faithfully followed so that our sleep and wake cycle is maintained for our good physical and mental health.

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