What role does sleep play for our health?

It is one of the most basic activities of our organism, without which it is impossible to function properly. However, some people still push such elementary needs as sleep into the background. What could be the consequences? Find out how to ensure proper sleep.

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Although the beneficial properties of sleep can be seen by anyone who wakes up in the morning with renewed energy after a busy day, it is still not uncommon for us to place sleep lower in the hierarchy of needs, artificially stimulating ourselves with coffee or energy drinks. Meanwhile, the value of an adequate dose of quality sleep cannot be overstated. Find out why you need to sleep well to be healthy.

Sleep is idleness? Nothing could be further from the truth!

"It's a waste of time to sleep" or "I'll sleep when I'm dead" are sayings that can still be heard from people who underestimate the salutary value of sleep and consider it a state of inactivity that occupies far too much of our lives. The truth, however, is quite different, and although during sleep we do indeed adopt a resting posture, and motor functions and reactions to external stimuli are significantly reduced, at least the activity of our nervous system is still preserved and undergoes regular changes. These, however, are not uniform, which leads us to look at sleep and its various stages in more detail.

Phases of sleep

When studying the structure of sleep, scientists focus on three physiological parameters of the human body. Specifically, they are concerned with:

  • the bioelectrical activity of the brain, which is studied by means of electroencephalography (EEG),
  • eye movement, which is studied by means of electrooculography (EOG),
  • muscle tension, which is measured by electromyography (EMG).

In the well-known classification of sleep phases, the eye movement mentioned above plays a key role. This is the basis for distinguishing the NREM phase (non-rapid eye movement sleep) and REM (rapid eye movement). American researchers from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine took this division one step further by analysing the depth of human NREM sleep. According to them, the REM phase is preceded by the following stages:

  • wakefulness - blinking eyelids, conscious rapid eye movements, slowing eye movements under the influence of drowsiness,
  • N1 stage - slow floating eye movements,
  • N2 stage - atrophy and then absence of eye movements,
  • N3 stage - no eye movements.

All these stages and phases occur cyclically during sleep. Research shows that usually the order is as follows: N1>N2>N3>N2>REM. Interestingly, each cycle ends with a brief awakening, which very often we do not remember at all from the night before. Scientists have also proven that, in order to get a full night's rest, a person usually needs between four and six of the sleep cycles described above. However, this largely depends on each individual's condition, genetic predisposition and age.

Sleep disorders and how to deal with them

A high quality of sleep has a significant impact not only on our wellbeing, but on our overall health. Sleep is not only necessary for the body's regeneration. It affects, for example, our memory or mental state. Many people do not even realise that their bad mood is due to sleep problems. Sleep apnoea is an example of such a disorder. If this kind of problem accompanies us, it should be addressed immediately, e.g. by being diagnosed for it. As part of the POLMED private medical care package, for example, obstructive sleep apnoea (OBS) can be diagnosed. More details can be found at https://polmed.pl/placowki/centrum-medyczne-polmed-katowice/diagnostyka-obs/. POLMED Healthcare also offers other types of examination, such as endometrial aspiration biopsy, which you can read more about at https://polmed.pl/placowki/centrum-medyczne-polmed-katowice/biopsja-aspiracyjna-endometrium/.

In many cases, only sleep regulation will suffice. How to take care of it? First of all, focus on the most relevant neurotransmitter systems, such as:

  • The gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) system - one of the key systems associated with sleep, which is largely used by sleep medications and sedatives,
  • The histamine system - allergic reactions of any kind can also significantly affect the quality of sleep. This is why you will find information on the leaflets of antihistamines about the possible drowsiness effect after taking them.
  • Serotonin system - proper functioning of the serotonin system translates mainly into improved quality of deep sleep. This type of sleep regulation is important, for example, in the fight against depression.
  • The noradrenergic system - in this case, excessive activity of this system during sleep can be problematic. A poorer quality of sleep for this reason is particularly observed in people who are overly stressed or have anxiety disorders,
  • The melatonin system - the rhythm of light is closely linked to our biological clock. This is why any guide on improving sleep quality will include advice to put away screens emitting blue light at least two hours before going to sleep.

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