Wednesday, July 21, 2010
A DEDICATION TO ALL THE NIGHT OWLS
I began researching this topic late last night, or better yet, early this morning. Maybe around 1:30/2'ish o'clock because I was having trouble falling asleep. I've honestly been struggling to go to bed at a decent time for the past few weeks and I can definitely feel the effects on my body. It's no way that I can exercise when tired because I'll only get sick. Which has lead to the topic of this post.
Sleep is defined as a state of unconsciousness from which a person can be aroused. In this state, the brain is relatively more responsive to internal stimuli than external stimuli. Sleep is essential for the normal, healthy functioning of the human body. It is a complicated physiological phenomenon that scientists do not fully understand. Sleep is now known to be a dynamic process, and our brains are active during sleep. It affects our physical and mental health, and is essential for the normal functioning of all the systems of our body, including the immune system. The effect of sleep on the immune system affects one’s ability to fight disease and endure sickness.
In humans, it has been demonstrated that the metabolic activity of the brain decreases significantly after 24 hours of sustained wakefulness. Sleep deprivation results in a decrease in body temperature, a decrease in immune system function as measured by white blood cell count (the soldiers of the body), and a decrease in the release of growth hormone. Sleep deprivation can also cause increased heart rate variability.
For our nervous systems to work properly, sleep is needed. Sleep deprivation makes a person drowsy and unable to concentrate the next day. It also leads to impairment of memory and physical performance and reduced ability to carry out mathematical calculations. If sleep deprivation continues, hallucinations and mood swings may develop. Sleep helps humans maintain optimal emotional and social functioning while we are awake by giving rest during sleep to the parts of the brain that control emotions and social interactions.
So here are six reasons to get a good night's sleep, according to Harvard Women's Health Watch:
1. Learning and memory: Sleep helps the brain commit new information to memory through a process called memory consolidation. In studies, people who’d slept after learning a task did better on tests later.
2. Metabolism and weight: Chronic sleep deprivation may cause weight gain by affecting the way our bodies process and store carbohydrates, and by altering levels of hormones that affect our appetite.
3. Safety: Sleep debt contributes to a greater tendency to fall asleep during the daytime. These lapses may cause falls and mistakes such as medical errors, air traffic mishaps, and road accidents.
4. Mood: Sleep loss may result in irritability, impatience, inability to concentrate, and moodiness. Too little sleep can also leave you too tired to do the things you like to do.
5. Cardiovascular health: Serious sleep disorders have been linked to hypertension, increased stress hormone levels, and irregular heartbeat.
6. Disease: Sleep deprivation alters immune function, including the activity of the body’s killer cells. Keeping up with sleep may also help fight cancer.
Harvard Health Publications of Harvard Medical School