There is more to sleep than meets the (shut) eye. Just like most activities in this life, the more you know about it, the better you will get. Essentially, sleep is a condition of body and mind which typically recurs for several hours every night, in which the nervous system is inactive, the eyes closed, the postural muscles relaxed, and consciousness practically suspended. Pretty obvious, right? But let us dig a little deeper and understand the role sleep plays in shaping the world around you.
As mysterious as the act of sleep still is, we know that the duration, depth and quality of the sleep you get greatly affects how you feel during your waking life. Sleep deprivation, apart from feeling unpleasant, can have numerous adverse effects on your body. Your ability to function is impaired, making simple tasks seem more complicated. Your response time increases, which is not great if, say, you drive to and from work every day. Games like this one highlight just how much your alertness and vigilance is affected.
Other effects of sleep deprivation include lethargy, increased appetite, decreased glucose intolerance, obesity, impaired immunity and mood disorders. As you can see, long term sleep deprivation is not something that should be tolerated so you are advised to seek help to ensure you get the right amount of sleep, every night!
So how much sleep do you need? If you said eight hours – since this is the number we are frequently told that we need – you are definitely close. Eight is certainly the average sleep requirement, but many people can feel refreshed after as little as six hours! However, if you are getting less than six hours of sleep, we would consider you to be sleep deprived and it is probably a good idea to get in touch with your GP.
If you need considerably more than eight hours or perhaps you rarely feel fully refreshed, you may have a sleep disorder which is compromising the quality of your sleep. The good news is that you have recognized a potential problem, so you can now focus on finding a solution. Speaking to your GP about arranging a sleep study or consulting a Sleep Physician should be your first step towards a more restful sleep.