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The dream has become a fundamental issue for those who care about health.
How much we sleep and how much we stop sleeping are issues that increasingly concentrate the attention of the scientific community, as well as citizens (insomniacs or not) concerned about their own well-being.
But how much do we know about the dream and its impact on our lives?
1. The importance of resting eight hours (more or less)
One of the most widespread recommendations about sleep is to sleep eight hours a night.
The advice is based on research that indicates that both those who sleep a lot and those who sleep little are more likely to suffer from certain diseases and live less time .
But it is difficult to know if it is the lack of sleep that causes the disease or if it is a symptom of an unhealthy lifestyle.
Ae assumes that a person sleeps little when they regularly enjoy less than 6 hours of sleep daily; while it is considered that they sleep too much who do it for more than 9 or 10 hours a day.
In the case of children, however, up to 11 hours of nighttime sleep are recommended; while teenagers must do it for up to 10 hours.
Shane O`Mara, professor of experimental brain research at Trinity College in Dublin, explains that despite the difficulties in determining whether lack of sleep is a cause or symptom of poor health, these are two mutually reinforcing aspects.
L people who are less fit exercise less, leading them to sleep badly, so they end up exhausted and therefore are less likely to exercise .
Experts know that the chronic lack of sleep – this means depriving yourself of one or two hours of sleep every day for a period of time – has been linked by scientists to poor health. And you do not have to spend days without sleep to suffer these negative effects.
2. What happens in your body when you do not sleep enough?
The restless sleep has been linked to numerous problems.
A review of 153 studies involving more than five million people found that not getting enough sleep was significantly associated with diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and obesity.
Depriving people of sufficient sleep for just a few consecutive nights can be enough to bring healthy adults to a pre-diabetic state. This moderate sleep deprivation damaged their bodies’ ability to control glucose levels .
Sleep deprivation weakens the immune system making us easy prey for infections. In addition, vaccines are also less effective.
An investigation showed that those participants who slept less than seven hours were almost three times more likely to develop a cold than those who slept seven hours or more.
Those who do not sleep enough also produce an excess of the hormone ghrelin, linked to the sensation of hunger, and, at the same time, have an insufficient production of the hormone leptin, associated with the feeling of satiety, which could contribute to the risk of obesity.
There are also links to brain functions and even the likelihood of long-term dementia .
O’Mara explains that toxic waste accumulates in the brain during the day and that they are emptied from the body during sleep. Thus, if you do not sleep enough, you end up in a state of slight shock.
Experts have less clarity about the impact of excessive sleep, although it is known that it is linked to a worse state of health and an increased risk of cognitive decline in older adults.
3. Different types of sleep are needed
When falling asleep, people go through different sleep cycles. Each of these lasts between 60 and 100 minutes and plays a different role in many of the processes that occur in the body during sleep.
The first stage in each cycle consists of a relaxed state in which we are between asleep and awake. Breathing slows down, muscles relax and heart rate drops.
The second stage is characterized by a slightly deeper sleep. You may feel awake, which means that many nights you may be asleep and not know it .
Deep sleep characterizes the third stage. It is very difficult to wake up during this period when the body performs the least number of activities.
After deep sleep we return to the second stage for a few minutes and enter the stage known as REM (rapid movements of the eyes, by its acronym in English) which is when we dream.
Subsequent cycles have longer REM periods, so sleeping less has a disproportionately greater effect on this stage.
4. Those who work in shifts and have sleep problems get sick more often.
Shift employees who sleep a little at the wrong time of day can increase their risk of diabetes and obesity.
Those who work with changing schedules have a significantly higher probability of having a poor health status .
They also tend to register more work absences due to illness, according to the National Bureau of Statistics of the United Kingdom.
5. Change of historical patterns
In general, people tend to go to sleep in the late afternoon for seven or eight hours, but that was not always the case.
According to a study by Roger Ekirch, professor of History at Virginia Tech University, hundreds of years ago humans in different parts of the world tended to sleep for two different periods each night.
Ekirch discovered that people tended to sleep a first block shortly after dark, then woke up for a couple of hours and finally slept for a second block.
The expert believes that this means that the body has a natural preference for fragmented sleep , but not all scientists agree.
Other researchers have found that modern communities of gatherers and hunters tend to sleep in a single block despite not having electricity.
According to Ekirch, the transition from two stages of sleep to one occurred in the nineteenth century because the use of domestic lighting delayed the time to go to sleep without changing the time to get up.
6. Telephones keep teens awake
Experts say that teenagers require up to 10 hours of sleep each night, but almost half of them do not, according to the National Health Service of the United Kingdom.
The bedrooms are increasingly filled with distractions such as laptops, tablets or cell phones, making it difficult for young people to rest.
The blue light emitted by electrical appliances makes us feel less sleepy, while the activities we do before going to bed – whether it is talking with friends or family or watching television – stimulate our brain when it should be disconnecting .
Faced with this situation, some experts recommend a nocturnal digital detoxification, stopping using these electronic devices 90 minutes before going to sleep.
7. Do you sleep the same in all countries?
An investigation on sleep habits in 20 industrialized countries found differences of up to one hour in relation to the time when people lie down and get up. However, in general, the total duration of sleep was quite similar in most cases.
According to experts, social influences – working hours, school schedules, leisure habits – play a much more determining role than the natural cycle of light and darkness.
In Norway, where the period of light varies throughout the year from zero to 24 hours, the duration of sleep only changes on average by half an hour.
Similarly, a study of three communities without electricity in Tanzania, Namibia and Bolivia, found that the average sleep duration was 7.7 hours. Similar to that of the industrialized countries.
So, what tends to vary slightly around the world is the time we go to bed and get up , while the time we spend sleeping is very similar.
8. Day and night people
There have always been people who tend to work better in the mornings and others who do it in the afternoon. There is genetic evidence of this. But the introduction of artificial light seems to have exacerbated this effect, especially for those who prefer to go to bed late.
It is estimated that 30% of people are morning, 30% are nocturnal and the remaining 40% are halfway.
However, people have some control over our biological clock. Those who naturally tend to lie down and get up late may try to reduce their exposure to light during the evenings and, at the same time, increase it during the day.
In the United States, a group of researchers took a group of volunteers to camp in a place in Colorado where they did not have access to artificial light: just 48 hours were enough to advance the biological clock of the participants for almost two hours .
The levels of melatonin, the hormone that tells the body to prepare to sleep, began to rise earlier in the volunteers, preparing them to sleep closer to sunset.