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August 30, 2010 at 8:00 PMComments: 0 Faves: 0

Sleep Deprivation and Your Health

By Helen More Blogs by This Author

Sleep is the body's method of recouping from the day's activities and the time set aside for the immune system to keep the body in tip-top shape. Sleep boosts our immune system, keeps our nervous system on track, protects our brain, helps us maintain peak physical performance, and has the ability to ward off a variety of diseases, including hypertension.

Sleep is vitally critical to the body's overall wellbeing, which is why people spend about one third of every 24-hour period sound asleep. The body regulates sleep in much the same manner as it regulates eating, drinking, and breathing. So what happens when we just don't get enough?

Sleepless Nights

When sleep deprivation occurs, our physical and mental health begins to deteriorate, starting with our brain's ability to function at optimal levels. When this happens and the brain is less alert, various motor skills also begin to fail. Meanwhile, other parts of  our body become fatigued. Though scientists have not been able to fully explain why the body requires sleep, we do know that fatigue is the body's natural response to lack of sleep. Similar to when you get too hungry, and begin experiencing hunger pangs, when you become over-tired, the body will send out signals in an attempt to force sleep.

Nightly Restoration

Because energy metabolism (the chemical processes that take place in your body) is reduced during sleep times, the demands for temperature and calories both decrease while the body is at rest. This lack of demand on the body provides the body with the perfect opportunity to rejuvenate and repair itself.

If the body is denied sleep, the immune system and other cell functions deteriorate. In laboratory studies, animals deprived of all sleep will actually die in a matter of weeks. Sleep is the restorative period thought to be necessary to every cell within the body. It is certain that the immune system requires sleep to maintain its vigilance, and that the brain requires this rest period to maintain cognitive function. Muscles and organs also rejuvenate and repair themselves during sleep.

How Much Sleep Is Needed?

In order for the body to function at optimal levels, an adult requires approximately seven to eight hours of sleep per night. It might seem that, if eight hours is good then 10 hours is better, but that's not necessarily the case. Sleeping too much can be associated with a variety of disorders including sleep apnea, strokes, depression and weight gain. Too much sleep might even lead to fatigue.

The trick to making the most of your sleep is knowing and understanding your own schedule and health requirements. If you feel tired upon waking you may have sleep apnea, or you may not have gotten enough sleep. If you wake up tired on a regular basis, contact a physician to discover the underlying problem.


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