Why sleep is important in life?

Dr Sanjay AgrawalWednesday, May 6, 2015, 08:00 Hrs  [IST]

Sleep has a significant and vital role in good health and well-being throughout the life of a human. Getting sufficient quality of sleep at right times can help mankind to protect mental and physical health, quality of life and safety.

The way you feel while you are awake depends in part on what happens while you are sleeping. During the sleep, your body is working to support healthy brain function and maintain physical health, keeps nervous system calm and cool. In children and teens, sleep also helps support growth and development of the body.

The impact due to lack of sleep can occur in an immediate manner such as a car crash and loss of concentration  or it can harm you overtime, for example, ongoing sleep deficiency can raise risk for some chronic health problems. It can also affect how well you think, react, work, learn, and get along with others or overall behaviour in your surrounding.

Healthy brain function and emotional well-being
Sleep makes your brain and physiology of the body to work properly. While you are sleeping, your brain is preparing for the next day. It is forming new pathways to help you learn and remember. Information from studies shows that a good night’s sleep improves learning. Whether you are learning math, how to play the piano, how to perfect your chess playing, or how to drive a car, sleep helps to enhance your learning and problem solving skills. Sleep also helps you to pay attention, to make decisions, and to be creative.

Studies also show that sleep deficiency alters activity in some parts of the brain. If your sleeping hours are less or disturbing, you may have trouble in decisions making, solving problems, controlling emotions and behaviour, and coping with change. Sleep deficiency also has been linked to depression, suicidal tendency and risk taking behaviour.

Children and teens that have sleeping deficient may have problem getting alone with others due to their short behaviour. They may feel angry and spontaneous, have mood swings, feel sad or depressed, or lack of motivation. They also may have problems paying attention and they may get lower grades and feel stressed, frustrated and confused.

Physical health
In physical health system, the sleep has very significant role due to changes in physiology of the body. For example, sleep is involved in healing and repair of your heart and blood vessels. Continuing sleep deficiency is linked to an increased risk of heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and stroke even memory disorders.

Sleep deficiency also increases the risk of obesity and body weight due to hormonal imbalances. One study in teenagers showed that with each hour of sleep lost, the odds of becoming obese went up. Sleep deficiency increases the risk of obesity in other age groups as well.

Sleep helps to maintain a healthy balance of the hormones that make you feel hungry (ghrelin) or full (leptin). When you do not get enough sleep, your level of ghrelin goes up and your level of leptin goes down. This makes you feel hungry than when you are well-rested.

Sleep also affects how your body reacts to insulin, the hormone that controls your blood glucose (sugar) level. Sleep deficiency results in a higher than normal blood sugar level due to deficiency of insulin, which may increase your risk for diabetes.

Sleep also supports healthy and development of your physic. Deep sleep stimulates the body to release the hormone that helps in normal growth in children and teens. This hormone also boosts muscle mass and helps repair cells and tissues in children, teens and adults. Sleep also plays a significant role in puberty and fertility.

Your immune system relies on sleep to stay healthy. This system will protect your body against foreign and harmful substances. With an excellent sleep, the human body's immunity remains better and competent.

Ongoing sleep deficiency can change the way in which your immune system responds. For example, if you are sleeping deficient, you may have trouble in fighting with common infections and may suffer with cough and cold frequently.

Activities in day time and safety
Getting adequate sleep at right time helps your function well throughout the day. People who are sleeping deficient are less productive at work and school. They are slow and take long time to finish tasks, have a slower reactions time, and with poor concentration leads to more mistakes.

After several nights of losing sleep – even a loss of just one to two hours per night - your ability to function suffers as if you have not slept at all for a day or two.

Lack of sleep also may lead to micro sleep. Micro sleep refers to brief moments of sleep that occur when you are normally awake.

You cannot control micro sleep, and you might not be aware of it. For example, have you ever driven somewhere and then not remembered part of the trip?  If so, you may experience micro sleep.

Some people are not aware of the risks of sleep deficiency. In fact, they may not even realize that they are sleeping deficient. Even with limited or poor quality sleep, they may still think that they can function well. For example, drowsy drivers may feel capable of driving. Yet studies show that sleep deficiency harms your driving ability as much as, or more than, being drunk. It is estimated that driver’s sleepiness is a factor in about 100,000 car accidents each year, resulting in bout 1,500 deaths.

Drivers are not the only ones affected by sleep deficiency. It can affect people in all professions, including healthcare workers, pilots, students, lawyers, mechanics, watch men and assembly line worker.

As a result, sleep deficiency is not only harmful on a personal level, but it also can cause number of damages in body even can change the physiology of the body. For example, sleep deficiency is playing an important role in human errors linked to tragic accidents, such as nuclear reactor meltdowns, grounding of large ships, and aviation accidents.

(Author is a medical consultant)