Sleep is a very important part of anyone’s daily life. It is needed for the body to be able to repair itself and keep on functioning for another day. Sleep helps us remain alert, awake, and active, and with a good night’s sleep, we can perform to the best of our abilities!
There are five stages of sleep. The first stage, which is light sleep, is when we usually experience the infamous ‘falling’ sensation. During this stage, muscle activity and eye movement slow down, but we can still be woken up very easily. During the second stage of sleep, our eye movements stop completely, and the movement of our brain waves become slower. During the third stage, delta waves, which are extremely slow brain waves, begin to appear, and it becomes more difficult to wake us up. The fourth stage of sleep gives way to ‘deep sleep,’ and in this stage, the brain is producing almost only delta waves. Then comes the ‘rapid eye movement’ (REM) stage of sleep. Dreams are known to occur more frequently during this stage, when our limbs become paralyzed and our breathing becomes irregular and shallow. Expert opinion vary on the number of hours of sleep needed by the body, but two major studies suggest that adults need at least seven to eight hours of sleep per day. Although sleep is mostly a matter of the release of chemicals inside the brain and various neurotoxins, there are some things we can do to improve our sleep. The most important tip is to create a consistent sleeping and waking schedule for every day. One can also create a relaxing routine for before bedtime, like soaking in the bathtub or listening to your favourite music. One must remember to finish eating at least two hours before bedtime, and to avoid caffeine and alcoholic products close to bedtime.
However, there are conditions that prevent people from getting the right amount of sleep. These conditions are called sleep disorders. Sleep disorders include snoring and grinding of teeth, and sleep apnea, where breathing temporarily stops during sleep. Narcolepsy is a disorder where a person cannot control his daytime sleepiness and experiences ‘sleep attacks,’ while insomnia is a disorder where the person cannot fall asleep or stay asleep, causing sleep deprivation. These disorders have a variety of causes. They may be caused by medications, lack of exercise, and other lifestyle choices. However, they may also be caused by underlying mental or physical health problems.
All of these disorders may lead to sleep deprivation. Sleep deprivation has some very serious consequences. People with sleep disorders are more prone to experiencing fatigue, lethargy, and emotional instability. People who are deprived of sleep are also more likely to commit errors in their work, and to have accidents when driving.