What is sleep? Well, sleep in an extended bout of rest we experience on a daily basis. During this bout of rest, we are unconscious and our brain, nerves, and muscles go into a rest and recovery state. In other words, sleep is an active period in which a lot of important restoration and strengthening occurs.
When it comes to sleep there are 4 stages that you need to be aware of. Each has a unique function and role in maintaining your brain's overall cognitive performance. Some stages are also associated with physical repairs that keep you healthy and get you ready for the next day. When these 4 stages are completed entirely with no interruption, that is when you've truly reached a level of optimal sleep and recovery. The following diagram gives a brief description of what happens during each stage of sleep.
As we touched on earlier sleep allows our body to rest and recover. Getting an adequate amount of sleep can help with your mental and physical well-being. The occasional night without sleep will make you feel tired the next day, but won't immediately affect your health, However, after several sleepless nights, you will start to find that you: feel tired all the time, drop off during the day, find it difficult to concentrate, find it hard to make decisions, and your overall mood starts to diminish. Besides the acute effects, there are several long-term reasons why sleep is important. Your emotional and mental health can be affected, making life difficult for someone who deals with anxiety, depression, or any mental health issue, on top of that your physical health can also be affected, making you more susceptible to illness, and increasing your chances for injury.
Sleep is a basic human need and is crucial to our overall health and well-being. If you are looking for optimal sleep, those between the ages of 6-13 should aim to get anywhere between 9-11 hours of sleep. If you are between the ages of 14-17 the goal would be to get 8-10 hours of sleep each night. For those 18 and over aim for 7-9 hours of sleep each night. Remember the three pillars of health are nutrition, exercise, and sleep. If you are able to make sure you are taking care of these three pillars, you are doing your body a favor and allowing your body to maximize its potential.