Sleep is one of those activities (yes, an activity) that we understand is essential to remaining healthy, energetic, and happy throughout the day. But have you ever thought about what exactly is behind our need for sleep?
The activity that happens during sleep is a restorative process of replacing cells that have neared the end of the cell lifecycle, allowing for growth and facilitating the sorting and storage of information by the brain. Much of the human body needs a daily restoration to function at a healthy level, and because of this, sleep deprivation can cause more serious problems than just feeling tired.
High blood pressure
High blood pressure can be caused by lack of sleep. During the sleep cycle, the kidneys can adjust blood pressure according to the body’s needs through unique physiological mechanisms. A process in which blood pressure is lowered during sleep is essential for normal function during the day, but when a person does not sleep, the heart and kidneys keep the blood pressure at a normal or even elevated level. If blood pressure remains high, the risk of stroke, heart disease, and kidney failure also remains high.
Strong links tie lack of sleep to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and cerebrovascular disease, such as stroke. In studies, adults who regularly got less than six hours of sleep a night had a significantly higher risk of heart and brain disease than those who got seven to nine hours of sleep nightly.
Adults know that the amount of sleep they need when compared with children and teenagers is less, but the importance of sleep remains. A study from Alzheimer’s Prevention Clinic of Weill Cornell Medicine studied middle-aged patients and looked at how lack of sleep links with Alzheimer’s and dementia in later years. During middle-age, stress, insomnia, sleep apnea, and simply not getting enough sleep can cause what is called “cognitive decline” as a person ages. Quality of sleep and number of hours of sleep were examined in Alzheimer’s patients, and it was shown that those who had sleep difficulties in mid-life were among those who later got Alzheimer’s disease.
In the more immediate sense, sleep effects mood. In a recent report of college students, happiness and composure were more common in students who were able to sleep a minimum of seven hours on a regular basis.
You may be a busy college student or an adult with a full-time career. We all have obligations that demand our time and energy but you must keep sleep a high priority. After all, it’ll pay off – getting enough sleep has been shown to help with achieving daily tasks, increased happiness, and improved overall health.
(Submitted by Betty Dean. Used by permission from www.lifeandhealth.org. Courtesy of LifeSpring – Resources for Hope and Healing Stuart, VA)