Many people don’t realize, but sleep is extremely important for one’s health. It’s not just to rest and feel energized to take on another day, but for a whole lot more. Our body does a lot of work inside while we’re sleeping. Unfortunately, modern lifestyle deprives many people of good quality sleep and this leads to a host of diseases.

Since this week of March is celebrated as the sleep awareness week, it is the perfect time for us to take a look at how inculcating good sleep habits can improve our health, help us lose weight, and help boost our mental well-being .

What happens when we sleep?

Of course we all know that our bodies rest when we sleep, and conserve energy. Our blood pressure, body temperature, breathing and heartbeats decrease; our brain, however, stays active and restores mental functioning, stores memories, and carries out processes that promote physical growth.

Sleep has 5 phases:

  • Stage 1 – Also known as the non-rapid eye movement sleep (NREM), this occurs soon after you close your eyes for sleep. This stage lasts between 1 and 10 minutes and in this you are lightly asleep and can quickly return to being fully awake.
  • Stage 2 – Characterized by a slowing heart rate and decreased body temperature, this stage lasts for about 20 minutes and in this your body prepares to go into deep sleep.
  • Stage 3 – This stage typically starts 35-45 minutes after falling asleep. In this, your brain waves slow down and become larger and you sleep deep without showing any reaction to potential sleep disturbances.
  • Stage 4 – This is the final stage of a standard sleep cycle. It lasts around 10 minutes and usually starts after having been asleep for at least 90 minutes. During this stage powerful dreams happen and your eyes rapidly move in all directions. This stage is also characterized by an increase in the heart and respiration rates, and their rhythms may become irregular.

Sleep plays a vital role in the following processes:

  • Controls metabolism or use of energy and body temperature
  • Keeps the immune system in working condition
  • Controls brain function and restores memory
  • Keeps the cardiovascular system healthy
  • In children, the growth hormone released during sleep helps to repair tissues and stimulate growth
  • Regulates appetite, controls blood sugar levels, and consequently helps manage weight

Anyone who doesn’t get sufficient sleep regularly runs into the risk of having all these processes interrupted, thus inviting chronic health issues.

How Much Sleep in a Day Do You Need?

  • Infants (4–12 months) : 12–16 hours
  • Children aged 1–2 years: 11–14 hours
  • Children aged 3–5 years: 10-13 hours
  • 6-13 years old children: 9-11 hours
  • 14-18 years: 8-10 hours
  • Adults: 7-9 hours
  • Seniors (65+years) : 7-8 hours

What Happens When you Don’t Get Enough Sleep?

If sleep deprivation becomes a regular practice, your sleep loss adds up and the total sleep you lose becomes your sleep debt. That is, if you lose an hour of sleep every night, at the end of the week your sleep debt is 7 hours. Some of the ill-effects of lack of sleep are immediate, like feeling drowsy during daytime and the inability to concentrate on work, inability to respond quickly, the risk of meeting an accident, and so on. Other effects could be long term and manifest after a few years.

Lack of good sleep can lead to:

  • Excessive drowsiness during daytime, lethargy and exhaustion
  • Headaches in the morning
  • Poor memory and difficulty in focusing
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Reduced immunity
  • Increased inflammation
  • Emotional instability
  • Chronic health problems like diabetes, heart disease and hypertension
  • Heightened risk of dependence on alcohol or drugs
  • Making mistakes at work
  • Having accidents at work or while driving
  • Reduced libido

In young people, lack of quality sleep may directly affect their health, behavior, development, and even make them socially awkward.

People Who Have Good Sleep Enjoy the Following Advantages:

They Tend to Eat Less

Studies conducted by various experts suggest that sleep-deprived people tend to feel hungry more often and eat high-calorie food like fried and packaged snacks, chocolates, sugary drinks, and so on. This is because sleep deprivation disrupts the proper functioning of the appetite hormones, leading to poor control of appetite: higher levels of appetite stimulating hormone, ghrelin, are released, and lower levels of appetite suppressing hormone, leptin, are released.

So obviously, those who don’t get enough sleep tend to put on more weight than those who sleep well.

They are Fitter

Good sleepers have been known to exhibit better athletic performance: basketball players who slept well were seen to exhibit greater speed and accuracy and were able to react well. Lack of sleep, on the other hand, has been known to manifest poor performance while exercising and even functional limitation – inability to walk quickly, low grip strength, and so on.

Their Risk of Heart Disease and Stroke is Lower

People who sleep sufficiently give ample time to their bodies to carry out repair and maintenance work in their cardiovascular system, thereby reducing the risk of strokes, heart attacks, and chronic problems associated with the heart, like congestive heart failure and coronary artery disease.

Is Only Good Sleep Enough to Stay Healthy?

While sufficient sleep and good quality sleep are essential for good health, it is obviously not the only thing you need. It is a crucial part of a healthy lifestyle, but there are other things also that you need to do to lose weight, maintain optimal weight, and enjoy overall well-being and health.

EPIC Health Weight Loss Program

At EPIC, we realize how important it is to get rid of excess weight that can cause you to develop several chronic and acute illnesses. We have created a customized weight loss program to help our patients shed the excess kilos.

Our team based, holistic approach means that you will be placed in the care of a comprehensive team consisting of a physician, dietician, and exercise physiologist, and other healthcare providers as deemed necessary when you join our program.

Once our physician examines you thoroughly and talks to you in detail, your ideal weight will be determined. The physician will also help you learn how much sleep you need, and how you can improve your sleep quality as well as hours – we call it learning sleep hygiene.

Following this, you will have sessions with our dietician who will work with you to understand your current food habits, patterns, preferences, and so on, to create meal plans with healthy alternatives, proper portion sizes, and so on.

Our exercise physiologist will help you learn why exercise is important for you to lose weight and keep it off, and what exercises you can safely do, and how much you need to do. You will be guided on how to continue the regime at home and how to track your progress.

As a tech savvy practice, at EPIC we provide our patients with apps that help that monitor their weight loss journey – for diet control as well as exercise.