May 17, 2023
The quality of sleep is one of the fundamental keys to maintaining good physical and mental health, since during this period our body recovers and prepares to face the demands of the following day.
Currently, we lead a fairly fast pace of life, where the days are getting shorter and shorter, which is why we require additional hours to meet all the demands of a society dominated by the culture of immediacy. For this reason, our health has gone into the background, since certain biological functions, such as sleep, have been forgotten, since the lack of time often turns out to be the perfect excuse to place this primary need in last place of our daily priority list.
In short, we are not aware of its importance, since sleep is a fundamental part of the equation of a healthy life, since with just one night of having slept badly, our physical and mental health is greatly affected. According to estimates by the World Health Organization (WHO), 40% of the world population suffers from some type of sleep disorder.
Given this scenario, the World Association of Sleep Medicine decreed the third Friday of March as World Sleep Day, with the aim of raising awareness among the population about the importance of achieving a good quality of sleep, in addition to evidencing the symptoms of lack of sleep and how it can cause health problems.
Why is sleep so important?
As Frank Villarreal, neurologist and coordinator of the Sleep Medicine Unit at Clínica Ricardo Palma told Bienestar of El Comercio, sleep is a physiological state, a behavior and a necessity at the same time, which occurs during the state of consciousness as the result of the vigil of the whole day. Likewise, it serves to regenerate, rebuild, mold and recover some biological systems that have worked during the day.
Indeed, it plays a fundamental role in the development of some cognitive functions, since previously acquired knowledge is consolidated during sleep in the central nervous system. It also has an important impact on moods, since it helps maintain better regulation and tolerance to stress and external stimuli, the specialist emphasized.
Likewise, it is in charge of regulating metabolism, since our metabolic rate is low, that is, we have less energy expenditure and repair systems predominate, which leads to a decrease in inflammation. In addition, during this state there is a hormonal production that allows the redistribution of body fat. In the same way, it is key to avoid a possible cardiovascular event, since during the night the pressure, the frequency and the cardiac output tend to drop, so a quality sleep significantly reduces the risk.
How does sleep affect our mental health?
No doubt, there is a significant relationship between the two, since better sleep means better mental health and vice versa. Villarreal said that within the models that explain the quality of sleep and problems, such as insomnia, psychological symptoms are always taken into account, which are bidirectionally linked, in other words, a depressive state or an anxiety syndrome can develop sleep problems as well and vice versa, since both factors coexist with each other.
Is there an ideal time to sleep?
In general, sleep should be during the night and the time depends a lot on the chronotype, which is the natural predisposition that each person has to be able to experience moments of rest, because as the neurologist pointed out, the usual chronotype sleeps between 9 and 11 in the night and gets up between 5 and 7 in the morning. Therefore, it is estimated that 95% of the world population usually sleep between 7 and 9 hours.
However, the time can vary according to age, since older adults usually rest for 6 to 7 hours on average, while children in school and adolescents can sleep more or less between 9 and 12 hours.
A quality sleep
The main illnesses are insomnia and sleep apnea; however, although it is not a condition, but a fairly common problem, it is insufficient sleep, since people say they have little time to sleep. For this reason, Villarreal stressed the importance of establishing schedules, that is, ensuring that our routine allows us to reserve a space for sleep.
“We must understand that sleep is not a state of shutting down consciousness, but rather a transitional process. That is why, if we do not have an orderly life, at night we will not have order either, that is, if during the day we adopt unhealthy habits, such as a poor diet, sedentary lifestyle, smoking, alcoholism, excessive caffeine intake, among others, all of this will impact on nighttime sleep”, said the specialist in sleep medicine.
On the other hand, it is essential to have a symbolism of the room, especially of the bed, since this must have an exclusive connection with sleep. For this reason, he recommends that only sleep and marital activities be carried out in bed, leaving aside those customs, such as working, watching movies and socializing using mobile phones.
“If during the day we adopt unhealthy habits, such as a poor diet, sedentary lifestyle, smoking, alcoholism, excessive caffeine intake, among others, all of this will impact on night rest”.
Additionally, disconnection is key, since another of the problems that affect the quality of sleep is the use of technological devices minutes before bedtime. It is evident that continuous exposure to light delays the onset of sleep and also causes it to break up more quickly, so it is advisable to put audiovisual devices aside for at least one hour before going to bed.
Finally, the expert indicated that it is important to take care of external factors, such as maintaining a comfortable and quiet environment, with an adequate temperature, that it is dark and that it does not have too many electrical appliances and devices that produce light inside the room.
There is no doubt that, if we take these recommendations into account, we will achieve a better quality of sleep that allows us to wake up refreshed and enjoy well-being.
Dr. Frank Villareal
Neurologist and coordinator of the Sleep Medicine Unit of Clinica Ricardo Palma