How much we sleep and how much we stop sleeping are issues that increasingly concentrate the attention of the scientific community, as well as citizens (insomniacs or not) concerned about their own well-being.
1. The importance of resting eight hours (more or less)
One of the most widespread recommendations about sleep is to sleep eight hours each night.
The council is based on research that indicates that those who sleep a lot and those who sleep little are more likely to suffer from certain diseases and live less time.
But it is difficult to know if it is lack of sleep that causes the disease or if it is a symptom of an unhealthy lifestyle.
As we assumes that a person sleeps little when he regularly enjoys less than 6 hours of sleep a day; while it is considered that they sleep too much who do it for more than 9 or 10 hours a day.
In the case of children, however, up to 11 hours of nighttime sleep are recommended; while teenagers should do it for up to 10 hours.
Shane O’Mara, professor of experimental brain research at Trinity College in Dublin, explains that despite the difficulties in determining whether lack of sleep is a cause or a symptom of poor health, these are two aspects that reinforce each other.
L people who are less fit exercise less, leading them to sleep badly, so they end up exhausted and therefore is less likely to exercise.
Experts know that chronic lack of sleep – this means depriving yourself of one or two hours of sleep daily for a period of time – has been linked by scientists to poor health. And it is not necessary to spend days without sleep to suffer these negative effects.
2. What happens in your body when you don’t get enough sleep?
The little restful sleep has been related to numerous problems.
A review of 153 studies involving more than five million people found that not getting enough sleep was significantly associated with diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, and obesity.
The home test on sleep to know if you are sleeping little
Depriving people of enough sleep for just a few consecutive nights may be enough to bring healthy adults to a prediabetic state. This moderate sleep deprivation damaged their bodies’ ability to control glucose levels.
Sleep deprivation weakens the immune system making us easy prey for infections. In addition, vaccines are also less effective.
An investigation showed that those participants who slept less than seven hours were almost three times more likely to develop a cold than those who slept seven hours or more.
Those who do not get enough sleep also produce an excess of the ghrelin hormone, linked to the feeling of hunger, and, at the same time, have an insufficient production of the hormone leptin, associated with the feeling of satiety, which could contribute to the risk of obesity
There are also links to brain functions and even the chances of suffering from long-term dementia .
O’Mara explains that toxic waste accumulates in the brain during the day and is emptied from the body during sleep. So, if you don’t get enough sleep, you end up in a state of slight shock.
Experts have less clarity about the impact of excessive sleep, although it is known to be linked to a worse state of health and an increased risk of cognitive decline in older adults.
3. Different types of sleep are needed
When falling asleep, people go through different sleep cycles. Each of these lasts between 60 and 100 minutes and plays a different role in many of the processes that occur in the body during sleep.
The first stage in each cycle consists of a relaxed state in which we are between asleep and awake. Breathing slows, muscles relax and heart rate drops.
The second stage is characterized by a slightly deeper sleep. You may feel awake, which means that many nights you can be asleep and not know it .
Deep sleep characterizes the third stage. It is very difficult to wake up during this period when the body performs the least number of activities.
After deep sleep we return to the second stage for a few minutes and enter the stage known as REM (rapid eye movements, for its acronym in English) which is when we dream.
Why do we dream and why do dreams recur?
Later cycles have longer REM periods, so little sleep has a disproportionately greater effect on this stage.
4. Those who work in shifts and have sleep problems get sick more frequently.
Shift employees who get little sleep at the wrong time of day can increase their risk of diabetes and obesity.
Those who work with changing schedules have a significantly higher probability of having a poor state of health .
They also tend to record more work absences due to illness, according to the UK National Statistics Office.
5. Change of historical patterns
In general, people tend to go to sleep at the end of the afternoon for seven or eight hours, but that was not always the case.
According to a study by Roger Ekirch, Professor of History at Virginia Tech University, hundreds of years ago humans in different parts of the world tended to sleep for two different periods each night.
Ekirch discovered that people tended to sleep a first block shortly after dark, then woke up for a couple of hours and eventually slept for a second block.
The expert believes that means that the body has a natural preference for fragmented sleep , but not all scientists agree.
Other researchers have found that modern communities of gatherers and hunters tend to sleep in a single block despite not having electricity.
According to Ekirch, the transition from two stages of sleep to one occurred in the nineteenth century because the use of domestic lighting delayed bedtime without changing the time to get up.
6. Telephones keep teenagers awake
Experts point out that teenagers require up to 10 hours of sleep each night, but almost half of them do not get it, according to data from the National Health Service of the United Kingdom.
The bedrooms are increasingly filled with distractions such as laptops, tablets or cell phones, making it difficult for young people to rest.
The blue light emitted by electrical appliances makes us feel less sleepy, while the activities we do before bedtime – whether talking with friends or family or watching television – stimulate our brain when it should be disconnecting.
Given this situation, some experts recommend digital night detoxification; stop using these electronic devices 90 minutes before going to sleep.
7. Do you sleep the same in all countries?
An investigation into sleep habits in 20 industrialized countries found differences of up to an hour in relation to the time when people lie down and get up. However, in general, the total duration of sleep was quite similar in most cases.
According to experts, social influences – work hours, school hours, leisure habits – play a much more decisive role than the natural cycle of light and dark.
In Norway, where the period of light varies throughout the year from zero to 24 hours, sleep duration only changes on average by half an hour.
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Similarly, a study on three communities without electricity in Tanzania, Namibia, and Bolivia found that the average duration of sleep was 7.7 hours. Similar to that of industrialized countries.
Thus, what tends to vary slightly around the world is the time we go to bed and get up , while the time we spend sleeping is very similar.
8. Daytime and nighttime people
There have always been people who tend to function better in the morning and others who do so in the afternoon. There is genetic evidence of it. But the introduction of artificial light seems to have exacerbated that effect, especially for those who prefer to go to bed late.
It is estimated that 30% of people are morning, 30% are nocturnal and the remaining 40% is halfway.