The effect of sleep on health
Rest and recovery are part of a healthy lifestyle. We all need to sleep, although this need may vary from person to person. Sleep is considered sufficient when it produces a full alertness and a sense of well-being the next day.
Sleeping well is very important because it is during this time that we recover our physical, intellectual and mental capabilities. Important functions like energy conservation, anabolic metabolism (synthesis of substances), strenghening of the central nervous system, memory consolidation and hormonal secretion are performed during sleep. Sleep strengthens the immune system, releases the secretion of hormones - such as growth and insulin - consolidates memory, makes the skin more beautiful and healthy, and relaxes the muscles.
However, estimates from the World Health Organization show that many people do not sleep well: 27% of primary health care workers have problems with sleep and one in four people have had at least one episode of insomnia in one any night of your life. Thus, insomnia is, evidently, the main sleep disturbance. Although it is a sleep disorder, insomnia is not the disease itself - it is "only" the symptom of a problem often overlooked. Prescriptions are prescribed to treat insomnia and it is often forgotten that it has a cause. Therefore, it is important to understand when and under what circumstances the insomnia episodes started. You also need to understand what kind of insomnia it is - difficulty falling asleep, staying awake at night or waking up early.
Before looking for any form of treatment try to follow some simple rules that may help:
- Reduce the consumption of alcohol, caffeine, nicotine and other chemicals that interfere with sleep and avoid them before going to bed.
- Turn the room into a sleep-inducing environment, dark, calm and comfortable.
- Establish a calm and relaxing routine one hour before going to sleep.
- Go to bed only when you feel tired.
- Once in bed do not constantly look at the clock, so as not to increase the feeling of stress.
- Use daylight to regulate the internal clock. Let her enter the room in the morning, and go out for a mid-day walk. Light helps the body to perceive the natural rhythms.
- Always lying down and waking up at the same times helps to establish a routine that ensures better and more consistent sleep.
- Dine early and eat light meals in order to avoid a very slow digestion.
- Drink the correct amount of liquids at night to avoid waiking up thirsty in the middle of sleep. But do not exaggerate or you'll spend the night going to the bathroom.
- Exercise early in the morning or at most up to three hours before going to bed. You will be more tired when you lie down and the alert effect caused by physical exercise will have passed.
Curiosity / Did you know
Among the many advantages that sport brings in terms of health and longevity, the practice of physical activities can be very beneficial in the fight against insomnia. Studies show that sports practice, on a regular basis, increases the quality of the person's sleep by 65%; apparently not only total sleep time increases, but also the amount of deep sleep, which is critical for the brain to process new information.
Loprinzi PD, Cardinal BJ. Association between objectively-measured physical activity and sleep, NHANES 2005-2006, Mental Health and Physical Activity, 2011 Volume 4, Issue 2, Pages 65-69
Division of Sleep Medicine, Harvard Medical School (Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School)