Top 10 Things You Did Not Know About Sleep

Oct 13, 2009

No One Really Knows Why People Sleep

Although most studies show that sleep is very important for people, scientists still cannot answer exactly why people sleep. Just half a century ago people thought that sleep is just a passive part of our life. According to some theories, we need sleep for our body to have a rest, while others say that sleep reverses damage from oxidative stress or claim that sleep's main function is to maintain memory. However, none of the theories can completely explain why we sleep and some of them are quite opposite to each other. What we know is that sleep deprivation can lead to a great number of health problems, including obesity, heart disease, depression and diabetes.

Your Brain is More Active during Sleep

While your body restores itself during sleep, your brain is even more active during sleep than during the daytime. During sleep, your brain controls most of the body functions, including breathing. Also the production of some vital hormones is increased. Besides, the brain processes what was generated during the day, which is important for further learning and memory.

You May not Even Realize you Have Insomnia

Many people think that insomnia means that a person has trouble falling asleep. However, insomnia may manifest itself in different ways, such as frequent awakenings during night, waking up too early and feeling of tiredness in the morning.

Also the study conducted at the University of Pennsylvania showed that people, who slept six hours per night (just slightly less than it is recommended by the scientists), experienced memory and attention problems, but did not feel sleepy. Moreover, a sleep deprived person may not be aware that he or she will have so called miscrosleeps, when a brain virtually switches off for half a second. Frequent microsleeps make it difficult for a person to perform daily tasks and increase the risk of injures.

You Won't Repay Sleep Debt in the Weekends

Many people believe that they can make up for the lack of sleep by sleeping more on the weekends. In spite of the fact that sleeping more on the weekends will repay some sleep debt, it will not compensate for the memory and attention problems and your impaired ability to perform daily tasks. Besides, sleepiness on the weekends can disrupt your biological clock and make it harder to adjust to the week schedule.

Sleeping Separately is Good For Marriage

Sleeping in one bed may not be such a good idea for those, who want to live happily ever after. According to the sleep researcher Dr. Neil Stanleyat Surrey University separate beds are good for marriage. Partners, who sleep in separate beds, not only avoid arguments over "quilt-hogging and fidgeting", but also have a chance for a better sleep. Sleeping separately can be especially good for couples, where one of the partners has sleep problems, such as snoring, which leads to sleep deprivation for the partner and negatively affects his or her health.

Sleeping Pills May Lead To Sleepwalking

People, who take sleeping pills to treat insomnia, may not know that they can cause other sleep problems, such as sleepwalking. According to the FDA, people, who use the most commonly prescribed sleeping pills, may experience such side effect as sleepwalking, when a person engages in different activities during sleep. Sleepwalkers reported about such strange behavior as eating and driving during sleep. It can be mentioned that sleeping pills are prescribed for short-term use, but many people overuse them, which can be quite harmful for health, associated with increased mortality and suicide risk.

Good Night Sleep Contributes to Weight Loss

The recent study published in the journal Psychoneuroendocrinology showed that your weight is linked to the quality and quantity of your sleep. If you suffer from sleep deprivation, the level of ghrelin hormone increases, which leads to greater feelings of hunger. Insomniacs also have lowered levels of leptin, a hormone that contributes to the feeling of fullness. In addition, the stress hormone cortisol is increased, making a person prone to emotional eating. The disruption in the production of the growth hormone, which is released during sleep also contributes to weight gain. So if you want to lose weight, the first step is to get enough sleep, specialists say.

You Will Survive Without Food Longer Than Without Sleep

Many people underestimate the importance of sleep, without realizing that continuous sleep deprivation can kill you faster than starvation. It is known that a person can survive without food for a month or two, while the longest time a person can stay without sleep is 11 days. Just a few nights without sleep can cause numerous psychological changes, leading to dizziness and hallucinations.

Morning Exercises Promote Good Night Sleep

People who suffer from insomnia may need to rethink their daily activity and start exercising in the morning. According to the National Sleep Foundation, doing regular exercises not only make it easier for you to fall asleep, but also considerably improves the quality of sleep. The study conducted at the Federal University of San Paolo, Brazil showed that moderate aerobic exercises contribute to longer and sounder sleep. Unlike the popular belief, exercising before bed is not the best way to promote sleep. It is recommended to exercise in the morning for a better sleep.

Sleeping More is Not Always the Better

Most of us know that lack of sleep is bad for our health and decide that sleeping more will solve the problem. Sleep specialists say that adults need from 7 to 8 hours of sleep. However, the study conducted by the American Cancer Society revealed that people, who slept seven hours, had lower mortality rates after six years, if compared to those sleeping more than 8 hours. Thus long sleepers may need to restrict their sleep to optimal 7 to 8 hours to ensure good health.