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New discoveries place sleep as the true pillar of health

Since ancient times, it has been known that sleep is essential for health and well-being. However, in modern Western culture, sleep has taken a backseat. 

It is estimated that 30% of adults do not have a good rest (National Sleep Foundation). Sleep problems not only affect our physical and mental well-being, but also our work and social performance. An adequate rest is the basis of a healthy lifestyle.

What is sleep and why is it important?

Sleep is a necessary rest for the mind and body. It allows us to rest and discharge both our mental and physical stress. Although many people neglect their rest to complete projects or obligations, adequate rest either at night or during regular naps is necessary to stay mentally and physically healthy. When we rest properly, we not only feel better when we wake up, but we also find ourselves with greater vitality and energy to face the many responsibilities of our daily lives.

Sleep quality is something we need to pay attention to because it can have a huge impact on our lives. Whether you stay out too late or sleep in too much, any significant change in sleep quality will have negative effects on your health and mood. Adequate rest has become vital for us to feel happy and satisfied with the life we ​​lead. If we can only get adequate rest, we will not only improve our productivity, but also improve our mood and decrease the harmful effects of disorders such as insomnia or hypersomnia.

How does sleep affect our health?

Sleep is a fundamental element for our health and well-being. If we are not getting enough sleep, our overall performance decreases, our immune system is challenged to fight microbes or viruses that enter our body, and our body may not produce the necessary levels of hormones responsible for controlling metabolic processes. Persistent lack of sleep also affects memory and brain processing, resulting in a gradual decline in your ability to focus and retain information easily. Finally, in more serious situations, lack of sleep can be detrimental to your mental health. Therefore, it is important to have good sleep habits to maintain a balance between your mind and your body, that is, quality sleep; It refers to having a deep, restorative and uninterrupted sleep that provides us with physical and mental rest. During this period, our body and mind relax and repair all the damage caused by the stress of the day before.

The 4 phases of sleep

During sleep, the body relaxes and brain activity decreases. This allows the muscles of the body to relax and the mind to rest. Sleep is divided into several stages:

  • The first stage of sleep is the drowsy stage, where mental and physical activity begins to decline. This stage lasts between 5-10 minutes.
  • The second stage of sleep is known as "light sleep." During this stage, the heart rate and breathing rate slow, the muscles relax even more, and there is less body movement. This stage lasts between 10-25 minutes.
  • The third stage of sleep is known as "deep sleep." During this stage, the heartbeat and breathing rate are slow, the muscles are completely relaxed, and there is a significant reduction in body movement. This stage lasts between 25-50 minutes.
  • The fourth stage of sleep is known as "rapid eye movement" (REM). During this phase, brain activity increases again to the level of the waking state, but there is a significant reduction in body movement. This phase can also be called "paradoxical sleep" because during this time your brain is actively processing information, but your muscles remain paralyzed to prevent you from acting on your dreams. This phase lasts between 50-90 minutes.

The full cycle of the four sleep phases generally takes between 90-110 minutes to complete before starting all over again. Adequate rest helps maintain our mental and physical health by allowing our brains to process information, recover energy, and prepare us to meet the demands of the next day.

What can you do to improve your sleep?

To improve the quality of your sleep, experts recommend making a few changes to your daily habits.

  • Including more physical activity during the day can help support a good night's rest; try to get at least 30 minutes of autonomous exercise every day.
  • Consider controlling your diet to reduce the intake of certain stimulants such as coffee and artificial sugars, opting for more nutrient-dense foods. An extra serving of fresh fruits, vegetables, and healthy fats can improve both your energy and your sleep. Experiment with your habits and eating to help you sleep better!
  • Try to go to bed early every night to get at least 7-9 hours of rest.
  • Avoid stimulating drinks such as caffeine after 4:00 p.m.
  • Swap exposure to bright screens before bed for some relaxing activity, such as reading a book before bed.

The benefits of sleep for our well-being

Regular sleep is essential for physical and mental well-being. Lack of sleep lowers our mood and generates changes in our emotions, such as anxiety and irritability, which decreases concentration and productivity. On the contrary, getting enough sleep contributes to emotional balance, improves cognitive abilities and increases energy levels. The benefits of sleep can be felt in the short term by allowing us to be more active during the day; in the long run, we will get fewer health related problems if we are consistent with a healthy sleep schedule. Therefore, we must always take into account the benefits of adequate rest, to guarantee personal well-being.

The consequences of not getting enough sleep

The consequences of not getting adequate rest can be serious. When we deprive ourselves of the sleep necessary for our health, the immediate result is fatigue and a lack of mental clarity during the day. These are just a couple of effects, but not getting enough sleep can have deeper long-term implications for our mental and physical health. Even when we sleep poorly, the damaging effects on our bodies are underwater, starting with cardiovascular problems due to poor blood sugar regulation and leading to other health complications like diabetes and increased stress. In addition, according to recent studies, there may also be an increased risk of developing neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's or dementia if we do not get the important elements that are part of our daily restful sleep.

In short, sleep is a basic need for our survival and well-being. It has a great impact on our health, and getting enough rest and sleep are essential to maintain it. Talking about the benefits of sleep, it helps us maintain productivity, improve memory, reduce anxiety and heart disease. Furthermore, not getting adequate sleep can also influence our physical and mental performance. For this reason, measures such as avoiding using mobile phones before going to bed should be taken to improve sleep quality. Other ways to achieve a better rest are to disconnect from the main obligations during the weekend or try to sleep early. Whatever your case, with a good rest you can be prepared to fully enjoy the next day.

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