Whenever it comes to sleep, we have been told time and again that 8 hours of restful sleep is essential for healthy and proper functioning of the body and anything less than that can have adverse effects on the body. But with further research into the realm of sleep the question arises that “Is 7 hours of sleep enough? “ New research reveals that 7 hours of sleep is the optimal amount of sleep required by the body and getting more than 7 hours of sleep can lead to wide-ranging chronic diseases such as diabetes, obesity and cardiovascular diseases. Studies on sleep show that those who sleep for 7 hours have a lower rate of mortality and morbidity. 7 hours of sleep has also been shown to provide improved brain functions.
Stages of Sleep:
Before further discussion about the right sleep needs, it is important to know what sleep actually is and what are the various stages of sleeping. A lot happens in our body when we are asleep. The body renews its store of energy, charges up the immune system and repairs and regrows tissues. Sleep starts from the non-REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep stage and then moves into the REM stage and again returns to the non-REM stage.
Stage 1: This is the primary stage of sleep where we drift from consciousness to sleep, and our mind is in a state of transience. During this stage, the brain produces slow brain waves called theta waves. This stage usually lasts for a short period (15 minutes) and gradually the body drifts to the second stage.
Stage 2: As you enter stage 2 of the sleep cycle, your heart rate begins to slow down, and body temperatures starts to drop. Your body enters into the stage of light sleep, and your brain produces bursts of rhythmic brain waves called sleep spindles.
Stage 3: Stage 3 of the sleep cycle is the stage when the body goes into a state of deep sleep and might be unresponsive to noises and activity. The brain produces gentle brain waves called delta waves at this stage, the body grows and repairs the muscles and tissues and boosts the immune system.
Stage 4: This is the final stage of the sleep cycle associated with rapid eye movement (REM). It is the stage where the brain becomes more active, and muscles become relaxed. Dreams usually occur at this stage as a result of raised brain activity.
Once stage 4 is over the body usually returns to stage 2.
Myths and Facts About Sleep
There are various misconceptions about sleep that need to be sorted out to get a clear idea about how much sleep our body really needs.
Myth 1: Our Body Switches off During Sleep
It is a popular myth that our body turns itself off and goes into the snooze mode when we fall asleep. But in reality a lot of activity goes on when we fall asleep. The brain becomes more active; the body stores up energy and boost the immune system during healthy sleep. Sleep also promotes the process of growth and healing of bones, muscles and tissues.
Myth 2: Older People Need Less Sleep
It is believed that as a person ages, his requirement of sleep decreases because of a lack of physical activity and exhaustion. But in reality, a person at the age of 70 needs to sleep as much as he needed when he was 30. Requirement of sleep varies with each person, and elderly people may experience fractured sleep patterns due to health issues and the change brought about the circadian rhythms with progressing age.
Myth 3: 8 Hours is the Magic Number
For ages it has been promoted that 8 hours of sleep is the optimum time that is required to rejuvenate and revitalize the body, but in reality, sleep needs depend of factors such as age, level of stress, physical activity, genetics, etc. and therefore it will vary from person to person.
Myth 4: Extra Sleep at Night can Prevent Daytime Fatigue
Some people believe that sleeping more at night can help them in fighting fatigue and lethargy the following day. It is important to have 7 to 8 hours of sleep, but energy levels for the following day will depend on the quality of sleep. People suffering from sleep disorders or those having trouble sleeping or staying asleep might not get enough restful sleep even if they hit the bed early.
Myth 5: Balance Sleep Debts of the Week by Sleeping more on Weekends
People believe that the lack of sleep due to work pressure all through the week can be balanced by sleeping more on the weekends. But the truth is, although it might help in relieving the problem in parts, but it can certainly not make up for the lack of sleep during the entire week. And, excess sleeping during the weekend might also affect the sleep-wake cycle.
Myth 6: Daytime Naps are a Waste of Time
In certain western societies, it is thought that taking a mid-afternoon nap is a waste of time and those who doze off during the afternoon are seen as lazy. But in reality, a quick afternoon nap actually helps in increasing productivity and performance at work by enhancing cognitive functions and alertness.
Myth 7: Teenagers are Lazy and Spend more time in Bed
Teenaged children tend to sleep more than 8 hours and are not morning person and therefore they are considered lazy and unmotivated. But in reality, teenagers actually need 9 to 10 hours of sleep because, during puberty, their circadian rhythms go through certain changes thus delaying their body clock by 2 to 3 hours.
Myth 8: Sleeping Less Keeps you Thin
It is believed that sleeping less will keep you engaged in activities, thus, burning more calories to stay thinner. But in reality, lack of sleep can do the exact opposite. Sleep deprivation increases appetite by disrupting the balance of hormone grehlin that determines hunger and appetite.
Myth 9: If you Wake up at Middle of the Night, its best to Wait in your Bed And Try to go Back to Sleep
It is thought that if your wake up at the middle of the night, then its best to toss about in bed, count imaginary sheep and try to fall asleep again. But in reality, this is a symptom of Insomnia that needs to be treated with care. It is best to relax the mind with activities such as listening soft music or reading a book till you feel sleepy again.
So, now that you know the mechanism of sleep and how it affects our mind and body, share the facts with your friends and don’t forget to share the sleeping myths that you have come across in the comments section.
Image Sources: cosmeticdentistofmichigan.com, urbannutrition.com, youbeauty.com.