Sleep is a naturally occurring state in which the body becomes unconscious and sensory activity is suspended for a time to allow the body to rest and recuperate. Voluntary muscles are also in a state of inactivity. It is during sleep that the body grows and repairs the immune, nervous, skeletal and muscular systems. All mammals, birds and most reptiles, fish and amphibians enter a state of sleep in a cyclic pattern. In humans sleep is controlled by the circadian clock. The circadian clock is the internal time keeper of our body and regulates the release of hormones that enable us to sleep and stay awake. The amount of sleep one needs depends on your age. Adults generally need less sleep than children and infants.
Why is Sleep Important?
There is still a lot that is not known about sleep, but from what we do know sleep is important for a number of reasons. Sleep helps your body to recover from what it has been doing while you are awake. A particular stage of sleep allows for your body to physically recover. Another stage of sleep allows your mind and emotions to recover. If either of these stages of sleep is interrupted you may feel either physically exhausted or mentally tired when you wake.
When you are asleep your body is able to concentrate on repairing damaged systems or fighting off illness. This is why sleep is important when you are unwell. Sleep lowers your blood pressure which is good for your heart. It allows your heart to work at a less stressful level.
When you sleep your brain has time to organize and transfer your memories from short term memory to long term storage. Adequate sleep allows you to remember, understand, process and recall what you have learned during the day.
When you sleep your appetite is decreased and your body is better able to digest the food that it has eaten. When you do not get enough sleep your appetite is increased and your body craves high energy foods and foods high in calories, fats, and carbohydrates. Adequate sleep can decrease the chances of having weight issues.
People with sleeping difficulties are said to suffer with insomnia. When you do not get enough sleep you accumulate a sleep debt. Having a sleep debt can cause you to be mentally, emotionally and physically fatigued. Long term sleep problems can lead to mood disorders such as depression and anxiety.