Sleep is a very rewarding biological activity that is significant to our health. It is so beneficial that the average adult spends one-third of his or her life sleeping. Increasing awareness of the benefits of sleep, as well as the negative effects of sleep-deprivation, will lead to the adoption of a healthier sleep lifestyle among people.
The benefits of sleep
Sleep is beneficial to the brain, heart, lungs, immune system. It affects mood, metabolism and resistance to disease.
Sleep improves neuronal communication and is important to learning and formation of memory. During sleep new information is replayed by the brain, strengthening neural pathways associated with the information, to consolidate memory.
Having a healthy sleep lifestyle helps in the reduction of stress and lowering of blood pressure.
The causes of poor sleep hygiene
Despite its importance, a great number of people in the twenty-first century suffer from inadequate sleep and other sleep disturbances. One of the contributing factors to unhealthy sleep patterns is the indiscriminate use of cell phone, television etc. Many people spend hours chatting, watching videos and gaming, a lifestyle that is pervasive in this twenty-first century. This has led to an irregular sleep schedule, insufficient sleep time; creating a sleep-deprived society. Another cause of sleep deprivation is work. Long, irregular working hours and shift work have become commonplace in the twenty-first century but not without its attendant problems. A lot of workers suffer sleep-deprivation and disturbances of sleep as a result of distorted sleep pattern.
Consequences of poor sleep hygiene
Short sleep and excessive sleep both lead to a decrease in cognitive performance. Lack of sleep causes inattention, slow processing speed, poor memory and decreased productivity at work. Poor sleep quality is associated with depressive symptoms and cognitive decline.
Sleep aids brain maturation and functioning. An understanding of this fact is useful in the education of children and adolescents. In children, sleep-deprivation causes learning problems and poor school performance that can be attributed to lack of attention, low moods, irritability.
Also sleep deprivation leads to the development of psychiatric disorders and diseases that cause degeneration of the brain, like Alzheimer’s disease. The glymphatic system of the brain normally clears and disposes of misfolded, insoluble proteins, like beta-amyloid and tau proteins, which accumulate in the brain and cause the development of degenerative diseases. This clearing process occurs best during sleep. Inadequate sleep leads to increased accumulation of beta-amyloid and tau proteins.
Lack of enough sleep can cause alteration in mood, irritability, hypersensitivity to stimuli, impairment of memory and decision-making. It also negatively affects the functioning of the immune system.
How to improve your sleep hygiene
Sleeping and waking at specific times goes a long way in improving your sleep hygiene.
Ensure your environment is relaxing and conducive. A quiet, dark, well-ventilated room is good.
Put away your cell phone, switch off the television and computer before going to bed.
Exercise and keep fit during the day. This makes falling asleep easier.
Eat light meals. Avoid taking alcohol and caffeine before going to bed.
Ensure you get enough sleep daily.
Seek your doctor if you have sleep disturbances that you can’t control.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of The Eastern Herald.
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