Most of us know that a good night's sleep is essential for our well-being but, how many of us actually make it a priority? We often ignore the signs of sleep deprivation and instead - stuff ourselves with caffeine and energy drinks throughout the day. Our hectic schedules and lifestyle choices make us less weary of what these signs could mean in the longer run.

We spend one third of our lives sleeping. Doesn't that clearly signify how important an activity sleeping is? According to a recent study, 46% of Indians sleep for less than 6 hours a night. Another study conducted, revealed that those people who slept less than 6 hours a night, for a month, were likelier to double their risk  of death from cardiovascular diseases. 

Why is adequate sleep important for me?

A good night's sleep recharges our body for the day ahead, making us more productive and boosting our concentration power. While we're asleep, our body goes into repair mode which means - our body heals faster in sleep mode. For children and teens, adequate sleep is even more beneficial because it is associated with faster growth and development. A child's reaction to inadequate sleep differs hugely from that of adults. A sleep deprived adult might feel tired all day whereas a child would act hyperactive in case of sleep deprivation.

Sleep deprivation affects our mental as well as physical health. Sleep deprivation is known to increase chances of obesity, cardiovascular diseases, kidney diseases, diabetes, and hypertension. Sleep deficiency can also impact the way our immune system functions - leaving us more vulnerable to infections and ailments. Various studies indicate that a good night's sleep can help reduce stress, calm our mind, and help prevent depression. An interesting theory to note here is that - ample sleep prevents our brain from creating false memories - which means getting sufficient sleep has a positive impact on our memory.

Harmful Effects of Sleep Deprivation -

  • Cardiovascular diseases: Lack of sleep can put us at a higher risk of developing issues related to the heart. 
  • Obesity: Lack of sleep directly influences our eating patterns as it stimulates appetite and results in cravings for high-fat, high-carbohydrate foods. 
  • Stress and Depression: Sleep deprivation can amount to stress and depression. Insomnia is one of the symptoms of Depression. A study reveals that people diagnosed with depression were more likely to sleep less than 6 hours a night.
  • Skin ageing: Sleep deprivation leads our body to release the stress hormone - cortisol, which breaks down the skin collagen - the protein that keeps our skin smooth. Our body tends to release lesser human growth hormones when deprived of sleep and this results in faster ageing.
  • Memory loss and illusions: 'Sharp wave cripples' that are responsible for sharpening our memory are produced during deep sleep. 
  • Kills sex drive: Studies indicate that lack of sleep results in lower libidos. Men suffering from sleep apnea, secrete significantly lesser testosterone at night.  Sleep apnea is a disorder in which a person's breathing is interrupted during sleep.

How can I sleep better?

Following a healthy exercise regimen and sticking to a schedule (not changing sleep patterns frequently) - helps improve sleep habits. Avoiding consumption of caffeine, nicotine, and heavy meals before bedtime can also benefit our sleep habits. Many of us have the habit of being glued to our computers, laptops, or mobile phones before going to bed but, we don't realize what it does to our sleep patterns. Any form of artificial light - from a TV or a mobile phone - can trigger  our brain to stay awake, making it difficult for us to fall asleep. Trying some light Yoga exercises before going to bed is a great way to improve quality of sleep. Other than this, trying natural remedies like a lavender oil massage or drinking warm milk before going to bed can do wonders. In case of chronic sleep disorders though, it is advisable to talk to a doctor.