We all basically sleep when we’re tired. After a hard day at work, all you can find yourself thinking about is getting to your bed and taking that much needed nap. However, have you ever wondered how it all works? What is it about sleep that helps you to relax? Most importantly, why is sleep so important? To best understand this, you first need to understand the science behind it.

The Science behind Sleep

Have you ever asked yourself what chemical changes happen when you close your eyes at night? When you are asleep, your body functions are usually still taking place. These functions are what determine whether you will wake up more relaxed and healthier or not! These include:

  • Decreased production of cortisol. This is a stress hormone that tends to heighten your emotional responses, making you overly sensitive. Adequate sleep and relaxation helps to regulate its production.
  • Improved insulin resistance. This simply means your body will have higher insulin response, therefore you will have less insulin stored in your body. This is very important since your risk of contracting diseases like Type II diabetes are greatly reduced by up to over 30%.
  • Reduced production of other hormones such as ghrelin, which is a hunger hormone that causes people to overeat.

How Sleep Affects your Mental Health

According to health and sleep specialists, the optimum hours of sleep are between 7-8 hours daily. Therefore, if you sleep for under 6 hours daily, you will most likely get the opposite effects for the hormones named above. When it comes to your mental health particularly, lack of sleep has adverse effects on your moods, emotional stability and peace of mind in general. Acute emotional abnormalities as a result of increased cortisol makes you very irritable, extremely sensitive and even teary! In simpler terms, that is why you might find yourself being an emotional wreck! Therefore your social interactions will end up being greatly affected.

Getting optimum rest on the other hand has positive effects such as better physical health, better moods and finally, better cognition and improved focus.

An baby angel enjoying her sleep

Optimum Sleep

Although the recommended hours of sleep are set between 7-8 hours, you have to understand your sleeping pattern and habits and adjust your hours to fit that! On a personal note I have a hard time believing the one size fits all theory when it comes to optimum sleep time. Because there are so many different factors that affect how each body works, factors like genes, habits, lifestyle etc. Some people prefer afternoon naps while others work best after a full night sleep.

In reality, the choice is yours provided you reach the recommended hours. Provided you understand that optimum sleep goes hand in hand with optimum brain and body functioning. What happens though for people who already work perfectly with fewer hours of sleep? This is actually pretty common among many people. In most instances, you will end up reaching a burn-out. This is dangerous since fatigue can cause some serious conditions such as hypertension. Another thing to consider is taking sleep vacations. If your life is too crazy and involving, taking time away from everything once in a while is the way to go! You can take a week or two at a sleep resort and just catch up on some sleep. These resorts have perfected the art of making their institution’s conditions optimum for sleep.