If there is one universal biological necessity that all organisms need, it is without argument that the process of sleep is at the top of the list. Animals sleep at different rates, hours, and have their own internal clocks – which actively determine the course of their lives. For humans, the importance of going to bed at the right time and waking up refreshed is not stressed enough. The science of sleep seeks to study this phenomenon in order for us to make the most of the one third of our lifetimes that we spend to rest our minds.
Sleep Science – How Does Sleep and Rest Help the Body and Mind?
The problem with studying and researching the way men and women sleep is that their sleep hours and internal clocks – the circadian rhythm – varies drastically from person to person. In the 21st century, jobs require people to stay awake at obscure times and as a result, they have little time for their own activities and rest. Most students in high school and college spend the twilight hours staying awake and having fun, with little regard for their health. Happy hour or not, it’s not going to be happy in the morning the next day. In fact, staying awake for 17 hours is equivalent in terms of physical performance similar to having a blood alcohol level of 0.05%, which is the limit beyond which you can’t pass if you want to drive in the United Kingdom. So technically, you’ll be ‘happy’ without the actual happiness to go with it.
The problem is that people do not know how badly their lack of sleep is affecting their ability to solve problems, maintain a good memory, and even their appetites. To understand the science of sleep based on different hours and internal clock schedules, scientists mainly research what happens if you don’t get it.
What Happens To Your Internal Clock if You Don’t Get Enough Sleep?
Studies have proven that there are worse problems to deal with than the extreme fatigue that we all hate when we don’t follow our biological clock’s rhythm. Staying awake for a full night brings about drowsiness, irritability toward friends and family alike, and for teenagers in school, it can bring down grades due to the decreased ability to concentrate. Pulling all nighters will do more harm than good because after all, what’s the point of cramming pages of study material if you end up with a disrupted memory span when you wake up? That’s assuming you are able to stay awake.
Planning and sense of time shuts down to a degree and since your appetite is severely affected, the lack of nutrition can escalate existing problems. Taking a long plane trip overseas disrupts peoples’ circadian rhythm, which is a 24 hour cycle heavily influenced by daylight and night time. Jet lag is a great example proving the difference in habits when the internal clock gets pushed over the edge. It’s not uncommon to feel like a zombie just passing through the first few days as your body slowly regains homeostasis (balance) and readjusts the circadian rhythm to fit the new geographical location.
The internal clock is in other words, the human body’s master clock. Taking a nap in the middle of the day will cause you to have difficulty staying asleep that night, and as a result, daytime the next day will be even more tiresome because you will feel inclined to take that nap again. That is why it is recommended that people following a tight schedule should avoid naps altogether and simply focus on getting the rest they need when they need it naturally – at night.
Disruption of the internal clock can have even more serious consequences, such as damaging the cardiovascular system. And in scientific studies, it is shown that melatonin production is reduced when the sleep hours are drastically changed, increasing the risk for cancer.
What Are the Best Sleep Hours For You?
Age is one of the most important factors to determine exactly how many sleep hours you need. Infants need approximately 16 hours per day, teenagers need about 9 hours per night (which is rarely fulfilled), and adults actually need only about 7 hours to fit their requirement. It is known that the older you get, the less sleep your internal clock requires, but it is a sleep science not exactly proven to explain whether or not senior adults need less sleep than younger people.
Now here’s the curveball. Have you wondered what happens if you sleep too much or if there’s even a problem for doing such a thing? Well there is, and research has shown that adults that sleep much more or less than the seven required sleep hours have a higher mortality rate.
Sleep Science – Putting the Problem to Rest
There’s much more to sleeping well than lying down and getting some shut eye. You have to understand how your body’s circadian rhythm – the internal clock – fits your individual self. A proper schedule must be followed to make the most out of your sleep hours.
There are real benefits to taking care of your brain and getting enough rest the right way is significant. In terms of health, the long term effects can be rewarding or damaging, both psychologically and physically. Don’t underestimate sleep because in the end, it ranks in the hierarchy among food, water, and of course, sex. It’s not that it’s not important; it’s just the most forgotten.