On average humans are thought to spend one third of their lives sleeping. Now, that’s a fair chunk of time. However, this figure is starting to decrease at an alarming rate, even though we all cherish our sleep. According to the experts, it should take around ten to fifteen minutes to fall asleep at night. If it takes less than 5 minutes, it’s thought to be a sign of sleep deprivation. How long does it take you to drop off after your head hits the pillow?
On average, six in ten Brits are sleep deprived. And lack of sleep can lead to a myriad of health problems such as weight gain and headaches, all of which are really disruptive to our health and are completely avoidable. Sleep is incredibly important for a healthy lifestyle. So why is it that we constantly put sleep on a backburner?
Our standby mode – how does it work?
Sleeping is very complicated process. It involves two cycles and consists of non-REM and REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. Non-REM sleep consists of four stages. The first two stages include falling asleep and the body regulating heart rate, temperature and breathing. The second two stages consists of deep sleep, which is thought to be important for the processes of learning and memory.
The body then shifts into the REM sleep cycle, kind of like second gear, where the brain is activated in similar ways to when we are awake. The body becomes paralysed (so we don’t wander around and accidentally end up in some awkward situations!) and our breathing rate increases as we dream.
Dreaming is seen as a vital component of sleep, but its purpose and function are disputed by many. Whether you’re having sweet dreams of happy times, or nightmares about approaching deadlines (as Debut’s research has revealed many students do), they’re a necessary part of the sleep cycle.
Some even argue they play an important role in our memory of events, and others say they help to declutter the brain of unimportant information. These cycles repeat approximately four to five times in one night. But the question is, why is sleep so important for us and why do we avoid it?
Sleep is more important than you think
Sleeping can have a major impact on the way our brains functions. Getting enough sleep is important for the brain’s ability to process and remember information that we receive during the day. So in order to remember what your boss yelled at you for and to remember those last minute notes you made, you absolutely need your beauty sleep.
Research has also shown that sleeping helps in the process of removing waste products from the brain. It sounds a bit yuck but trust the science, it’s crucial. In addition to this, sleep is important for our physical health too. Risks related to depression, diabetes, migraines and blood pressure can rise massively due to insufficient sleep. Along with a weakening of the immune system and negative impacts on our metabolism.
It’s vital that we allow our body to rest and recuperate, so it seems there’s an advantage to being in bed by 10pm after all. Unfortunately, many of us sacrifice our sleep for other seemingly more important activities like Instagram scrolling and Netflix binging.
So why don’t we all go to bed early?
A culture of ‘all-nighters’ has increased in recent years, especially amongst students and young people. When we’re under so much pressure to be academically successful, maintain a busy social life and also earn money to pay the bills, sleep often comes low down on our list of priorities and at the expense of our health.
We often delay going to sleep so we can finish our last-minute assignments and meet our work deadlines. But sometimes we just need to go to bed. Such a sleepless culture is glorified on social media, and in work and university environments, where people often brag about staying up late to finish a project.
In some workplaces late-night working is even encouraged, with little regard for individuals’ mental and physical health. But it’s important to reject this pressure and to know what’s best for yourself. Most adults need seven to eight hours of sleep every night to maintain a healthy mind and body, and this is just as important as meeting those deadlines. It really is. Getting a good amount of sleep means we are mentally and physically healthier, which in return can help us to work more efficiently and become the best versions of ourselves (yay!).
How do you do it?
So you really need to prioritise getting a good amount of sleep. By managing your time more effectively through appropriate planning, you can meet deadlines for work. This will ensure you don’t fall into the trap of sacrificing your sleep to finish work. Use the technology available to you, such as calendar apps and reminders, to stay on top of your workload.
Remember that aside from working hard to achieve your goals, you also need to work hard at taking care of yourself. It’s important to show some self-love in order to fully enjoy your successes. In other words, work hard, sleep hard.