The Importance of Sleep: More Than Rest and Relaxation
By Paisley Hansen
With the pace of modern life seeming to increase every day, it is easy to suddenly find yourself feeling fatigued, drained and just plain run down. From working adults to young students, it is common to think that staying up later for just an hour or so is harmless. However, those extra hours of television watching, game playing or even working can add up and take their toll on our wellbeing. This forms what is referred to as a sleep deficit, and can be as difficult to recover from as having a deficit in your bank account balance. Needless to say, getting adequate sleep is vital to a person's health, so it's important to invest in things like a good quality mattress. In order to appreciate the value of a good night's sleep, it is best to first have an understanding of why we designed to need sleep in the first place. Here are a few ways that sleep - or lack thereof - can have an effect on the quality of your life.
Brain and Memory Function
We all have those days when we forget things - where we put our car keys, the due date for a homework assignment, or - on particularly hectic days - what we ate for breakfast. If you can rule out medical causes or medication side effects, you may be experiencing these episodes of forgetfulness because of poor sleep habits. Your brain's synapses begin to slow and do not make the proper connections when they are overly fatigued, so you are less able to focus on a task or on a thought process. This state becomes harmful because it will impact everything from successfully completing a school test to reaction time while driving - the latter of these will of course have more serious life-altering consequences.
Acquiring an illness such as the common cold is a part of life. Whether you feel like you are coming down with a mild case of the sniffles or something more serious, your body will be unprepared to fight off the invading virus if it is not rested. Rest allows cells to repair and strengthen so that they can perform their jobs well, so be sure to help yourself to stay well by getting the sleep that your immune system requires. If you do get a full-blown malady such as the flu, you will find that your recovery time is much shorter if you are taking good care of yourself. Denying your system time to do what it needs to do will only cause it to go into overdrive, and will be unable to compensate for what it is lacking because it must struggle even more with just its basic functions. Introducing a foreign matter such as a virus would spell trouble, and you may very likely have to spend several days in bed anyway!
Metabolism and Weight
Another common problem with modern society is the constant struggle with weight and the processing of certain types of food. Many people who struggle with staying within a healthy weight range discover that even regimented dieting and exercise programs are not always enough to keep the unwanted pounds off. Much like your immune system, your metabolic system also requires energy and sufficient opportunity to perform its necessary processes properly. If you rob it of these requirements, the body tends to slow down so that other things can catch up - and that means that you will not be metabolizing your food as well as you should. If you form this habit long-term, your body will eventually take the hint and go into what could be called a hibernation or starvation mode, so it will begin to store away calories and fat instead of burning them for energy. As the calories pile up, the pounds start to pile on. Once this habit sets in, it can be very hard to break, and you can be in for a battle for future weight loss efforts. On top of that, you will be too tired and weak to exercise - which is bad for anyone long-term!
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