You have a big exam tomorrow. The time is 8:05pm and you begin to feel quite nervous about it. Not being as prepared as you would have liked, you start considering to pull the infamous “all-nighter.” The sun has already set and darkness fills the skies. As the ambitious night lingers on, even after several cups of coffee, your eyelids still manage to get heavier than your book-filled backpack. The words on the page become more difficult to read and your thinking becomes fuzzy. A mental fog begins to set in. No matter how hard you try to endure, the glorious all-nighter you had hoped for may be impossible to conquer. After what seems like moments later, you wake up in the early hours of the morning with your nose buried in the gutter of the book. Sound familiar? Why couldn’t you fight the urge to fall asleep? Why did it seem like you were completely out of control and as if you had no other choice?
Sleep is Vital
Sleep is an event your body needs to experience for survival. It is the period where your body recharges, heals, and files away all the information it gathered throughout the day. Despite all odds, sleep is the only even your body encounters that is involuntary. Some may try to go days without it and try to ignore the feeling of drowsiness. However, there will always be that moment when the brain will override, initiate a sleep cascade, and cause you to fall int a deep slumber despite all efforts. Falling asleep is an action brought on by your brain because it understands that without sleep, you cannot survive.
Why Does Your Body Need Sleep To Survive?
Just as our days are divided into daytime and nighttime, our body’s biologic clock is divided into wakefulness and sleep periods. Wakefulness and sleep occur through an oscillating cycle known as the circadian rhythm. It operates by regulating the secretion of chemical in our body to inhibit or induce sleep. The hypothalamus acts as our biologic clock and initiates sleep by lowering body temperature and by coordinating the release of melatonin into the bloodstream.
Sleep occurs in two phases, Rapid Eye Movement (REM) and Non-Rapid Eye Movement (NREM) cycles. The primary function of NREM sleep is restorative. This is the period of sleep when your body grows, heals, and recharges for the upcoming day. REM sleep is the period essential for memory, mood, and learning functions. It’s during this period when your brain filters through the information gathered during the day. I like to think of REM sleep as the librarian filing away all the books that returned to the library from circulation.
What Happens To Your Body When You Lack Sleep?
When we fail to recharge our batteries, our devices stop working. When you don’t defragment your hard drive regularly, your computer begins to run slower and more sluggish. Both examples are applicable to what happens with our body when we don’t get enough sleep. Going 24 hours without sleep is comparable to the same state of mind as someone with a blood alcohol level of 0.1%, which is above the legal limit to drive in most States.
How Much Sleep Do You Need?
Our bodies need an average of 7-8 hours of quality sleep. I emphasize quality because our bodies need uninterrupted sleep. When a loud sound, snoring spouse, pet, children, et cetera, wakes the sleeper, it causes a cycle interruption that is just as bad as not sleeping at all. Patients who are chronically sleep deprived could be subject to a multitude of health problems. For example, depression, anxiety, high blood pressure, obesity, sexual dysfunction, fatigue, and diabetes just to name a few. If you feel like you aren’t getting anough sleep or feel like your sleep is consistently being interrupted, we urge you to find a sleep specialist near you before your battery runs out.