What is a good sleep, why do we need it, and what are the benefits?

We need sleep every day, but why is that? What does it mean to get a good sleep?

Sleep is a state of relaxation, reduced metabolism, and relative insensitivity to stimulation. But there are different stages of sleep – each with a unique brainwave pattern – and we need all of them to properly rest.

Why do we need sleep?

Stages one and two consist of light sleep, which rests the frontal lobe – the part of the brain responsible for reasoning skills, impulse control, and emotional regulation.

Most of our sleep falls into these stages, with it becoming more common as the night goes on.

Stages three and four are deep sleep, characterized by slow, rhythmic brainwaves. We get most of our deep sleep early in the night, during which our tissues and DNA are repaired, immunity is boosted, and the brain gets washed by cerebrospinal fluid.

You’ve probably heard of the last stage, Rapid Eye Movement, or REM sleep. This is when we dream.

During REM, our brainwaves look similar to when we are awake, but our muscles are paralyzed – if they weren’t we’d move around and act out dreams.

REM mostly occurs in the last few hours of sleep, so if you aren’t getting a full eight hours, you’re likely missing out.

We cycle through these stages every 90-120 minutes while we’re asleep, but the amount of time we spend in each changes as the night progresses.

The Benefits of Sleep

People often think they don’t need sleep, that it’s a waste of time. In fact, sleep is essential to everything we do.

Beyond feeling rested, sleep gives us:

    • Improved concentration and reaction time
    • 40% increase in ability to learn
    • Better emotional regulation
    • Improved communication skills
    • Increased productivity
    • Decreased impulsivity
    • Reduced risk for a number of chronic diseases

And that’s only to name a few.

Despite how important it is to get a full night’s rest of 7 to 9 hours, adults get a mere 6.5 hours on average.

How do you know you got a good sleep?

Well, beyond feeling nice and rested in the morning, some indicators are:

    • Spending 85% of time that you are in bed asleep
    • Falling asleep within 30 minutes of going to bed
    • Waking no more than once per night
    • Remaining awake for no more than 20 minutes before falling back asleep

As a society, we have an unhealthy attitude toward sleep. It’s common to hear people say, “I’ll sleep when I’m dead,” or “Sleep is for the weak.”

You may feel like you’re doing the right thing by staying late at work to finish a project, but you’ll be more productive if you get a good night’s rest instead.

If you prioritize sleep, you’ll get more done in fewer hours. Students, take note – pulling an all-nighter to cram can actually cause you to learn less. Sleeping eight hours can lead to a 40 per cent increase in learning, compared to resting for half that time.

Sweden recently even experimented with a six-hour workday and found that employees got just as much done because they were more energized overall.

What people don’t realize is that when we’re sleep deprived, we don’t even realize how poorly and inefficiently we are functioning – this particularly affects shift workers, especially those working nights.

Some politicians and CEOs – including Bill Clinton and Donald Trump – even boast about how little they sleep. Perhaps they don’t know that sleep deprivation costs the U.S. economy $400 billion per year!

Many health conditions are associated with lack of sleep – watch for our next blog post to find out more!

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