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A big part of your life will be dedicated to sleep. On average, Americans get around 6.8 hours of sleep per night. Is that really enough though? Probably not. As it turns out, most of us fall short of the recommended amount of sleep we should get. In this article, we will discuss some important things you should know about sleep, including the consequences of sleep deprivation.
Consequences Of Sleep Deprivation
Most people who don't get enough sleep do not feel that it is a problem. They simply think that they are too busy to attempt to get more sleep. Think about it, how many times have you heard the phrase, "there are not enough hours in the day." However, learning the consequences of sleep deprivation may change your mind.
First of all, sleep is important for us as it heals our body and allows it to function properly. During sleep, your body does things like repairs heart and blood vessels. It also rests your brain and helps it to function as well. Not getting enough sleep is detrimental to your physical and mental health. Here are a few consequences of not getting enough sleep:
1. Memory Issues
During sleep, your mind performs functions that help you learn and remember new information. If you are deprived of sleep, you may have trouble remembering new information.
2. Mood Changes
Another side effect of getting a lack of sleep is mood changes. Those getting a lack of sleep are more apt to be irritable, cranky, or easily upset.
3. Weakened Immune Function
Your immune system depends on sleep to run properly. Not getting enough sleep puts you at a higher risk of becoming sick if exposed to germs.
4. Heightened Risk For Diabetes
Getting a lack of sleep has been linked to a higher risk for diabetes. The regulatory system in your body that releases insulin is affected by a lack of sleep.
5. Low Sex Drive
Your sex drive is another thing that will plummet if you aren't getting enough sleep. Men are especially at risk as their testosterone levels drop if they don't sleep enough.
6. Trouble Concentrating
Being sleepy can make it hard to concentrate. It also affects your ability to think creatively and to problem solve.
Being tired puts you at a higher risk of having an accident. Lots of car accidents are caused by sleep-deprived drivers.
8. Weight Gain
When you are sleepy, the chemicals in your brain that tell you when you are full are not working as well. This can cause you to overeat.
9. Heart Disease
Sleep deprivation is linked to higher blood pressure and inflammation which both play a role in developing heart disease.
How Your Sleep Cycle Works
The entire time that you are asleep does not consist of the same type of sleep. There is a cycle of which your body goes through while you are tucked away in your bed and off in dreamland. First of all, REM (rapid eye movement) sleep occurs for around 1.5 to 2 hours of your total sleep. REM sleep is important because it is responsible for the processing of information in your mind. Also, most of your dreams will occur during the REM part of your sleep cycle.
The other time that you are asleep will be spent in an NREM sleep. (non-rapid eye movement) During NREM sleep, your body is in a vegetative state. In other words, your body is resting and healing itself during NREM sleep. Now that we have explored the sleep cycle and REM vs. NREM sleep, we will talk about how much sleep you really need.
How Much Sleep Should You Be Getting?
So, now we will talk about the only thing that you are actually in control of: How much sleep you get.
As we discussed before, 6.8 hours is average for Americans. Ideally, researchers suggest that you try to aim for somewhere in between 7 and 10 hours of sleep. Now, that number is a little too broad. Let's specify a little more. First of all, teenagers should get 8-10 hours. Young adults and adults need around 7-9 hours. Older people only need around 7-8 hours. Now with that being said, you can see that the average American falls short of the minimum recommended time of sleep.
There are many factors that cause you to put yourself through sleep deprivation. Obviously, if you can, you should go to be earlier. Getting to bed an hour early rather than watching TV can help you to get a little closer to your desired amount of sleep. If this is not an option, consider taking naps. Naps are great for getting a quick restoration of energy and rest. Based on how your sleep cycle works, a nap should take place for no longer than about 20 minutes. Anything longer than that will put you in a deeper sleep and can throw off your sleep cycle during the night.
Your sleep cycle is a big part of your overall health and well being. In order to further your health and ensure that you are doing the best thing for yourself, try to sleep a little more. Take a second to evaluate your sleep cycle habits and decide whether or not you need to make some changes.