Your head hits the pillow and you are lulled into a deep, dreamless sleep. You wake eight hours later feeling refreshed and rejuvenated. You’re ready to face the day. This is the ideal picture of a good night’s sleep, but how many people actually experience this level of restfulness? More likely than not you stay up later than you should, toss and turn in bed to get comfortable, drift off to sleep where your dreams are active, and wake up groggy when the alarm rings next to your head. Too many adults in the United States are suffering from sleep debt or the amount of sleep that you get versus what you should get. There are many possible physical and mental side effects of not getting enough sleep.

Here are some of the interesting facts about sleep and its effects on our bodies.

Eight hours sleep?

This is the number we’ve all heard when it comes to how much sleep we need to stay healthy. However, the science of sleep isn’t really exact. Some adults function just fine on as few as five hours sleep while others need ten to be active and healthy when they are awake. Much of it depends on your own body’s unique chemistry. As a rule of thumb, if you feel sleepy during the day, you haven’t had enough quality sleep.

Sleep debt

If you do not get the amount of sleep your body needs to remain healthy you will begin to feel the effects of your sleep debt. Your system will demand to make up that additional sleep in such a way that it becomes difficult to function. Even if you get used to functioning without enough sleep, your body feels the effects. You may be slower to respond, have impaired judgment, and even memory problems.

Sleep deprivation

Continued sleep deprivation can cause more concerning problems. It has been shown that sleep deprivation can cause a similar reaction in the body to being intoxicated. Sleep deprived drivers are responsible for over 50,000 auto accidents each year and an average of 1,500 result in death of either the driver or another party. If you can’t keep your eyes open, you continuously yawn, or you lose track of the last few miles then you’re too tired to drive.

Sleep and pain

Sleep produces an essential neurotransmitter called serotonin. Without it, the effects on the body can be devastating. Not only does it cause an increased sensitivity to pain but it can also lead to depression or anxiety. It is sometimes hard to determine if the pain is causing the sleeplessness or the other way around. Treating half the problem may not provide a long-term solution for many patients.

Are you getting enough sleep at night?

Image by Timothy Krause via Flickr


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