Your Voice

Your Voice: Why better sleep is a better life

Caffeine or exposure to a vast amount of light at late hours in the night can block adenosine and cause significant health and productivity issues.

Your Voice: Why better sleep is a better life

Too many of us are falling short of adequate sleep, walking through life underslept without realizing the harm. “Every disease that is killing us in developed nations has causal and significant links to a lack of sleep,” states Dr. Matthew Walker.


Sleep deficiency is linked to issues in focus, memory, and the immune system, and may shorten one’s lifespan. Sleep helps us heal and recover physically, solve problems, manage stress, enhance our cognitive abilities, and improve performance. But also, the quality of our sleep matters.


We have two main types of sleep; non-rapid eye movement (NREM) and rapid eye movement (REM). NREM transitions between wakefulness and sleep where heart rate, breathing, and muscles slow down. This type moves through three stages, from stage one of light sleep to a deeper sleep of stage two when we get more relaxed, which is typically the longest stage. 


This is followed by stage three, for its importance to help us feel refreshed and alert the next day. NREM helps us heal, manage stress, solve problems, and boost the immune system. 


REM was named because our eyes move back and forth quickly during this stage of sleep. Unlike the other stages, the rate of breathing and heartbeat increase where usually dreams occur. Our arms and legs become paralyzed during this stage. Sufficient REM sleep improves learning, efficiency, mood, and memory. 


According to recent studies, up to 30% of people in the modern world suffer from chronic insomnia. Our biology is set up to work in a day and night cycle called the circadian rhythms, which dictate the time when we feel alert or sleepy. 


While the modern world offers many benefits, there are times when we need to reconsider how we build our daily routine and activities around it. For instance, caffeine or exposure to a vast amount of light at late hours in the night can block adenosine, which is associated with the need for sleep — thereby impacting the circadian timing of our sleep. 


According to National Sleep Foundation, an adult needs eight hours of sleep a night. Regularity is key by setting a time daily and sticking to it. It is also important to avoid overindulgence in stimulants like coffee or energy drinks, as well as avoid eating two hours before going to bed. Managing stress and regular exercise throughout the day can also lead to better sleep.


Although this shouldn’t be the norm, we all have a bad night’s sleep every now and then due to emergencies or other circumstances. It must be clear by now there is no replacement for sleep deprivation but to sleep well. However, there are ways to overcome a bad night’s sleep. Napping for up to 20 minutes will recharge the body and mind. Taking an outdoor walk under the light can stimulate alertness. 


EDITOR’S NOTE: Your Voice reflects the thoughts and opinions of the writer, and not necessarily those of the publication.


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