The Importance of Sleep

Prof. Nikolaus Netzer MD PhD

In this blog, let’s have a quick look at the importance of good sleep and what impact it can have on our lives.

???? On the 19th of March, 2021, the official World Sleep Day, we are hosting two events to shed light on the importance of healthy sleep.  ????

Lunchtime Clubhouse special
Expert Panel

We all know that sleep plays a vital role in our health and throughout our entire life.

Good sleep makes you fit, focused, productive, efficient, creative, balanced… the list of positive adjectives related to sleep is extensive. All in all, enough and good quality sleep will provide you with a lot of benefits and strengthen you mental and physical health. Therefore, we stress that a good night of sleep is vital ­and should not be taken for granted in our fast-paced world. With all the technology and the extensive to-do lists, we rarely follow good sleeping habits and most people do not get the required amount of sleep. As we know, theory and practice do not necessarily match.

Why do we need sleep?

During sleep a lot of important processes are happing such as processing data in our brain, restoration of cells, and building our immune system. In fact, you could generally divide the importance of sleep into two main aspects: the mind and the body.

When it comes to our mind, sleep has a vast impact on our mental functions. Overnight, we are processing our experience and pieces of information we had during the day, while strengthening and consolidating the short-term and long-term memory. This process helps you to focus, pay attention, and improve your learning ability. In terms of your body, it restores itself by growing muscles, repairing tissue, and regulating hormones. Sleep resets your body to be fit and healthy for the next day and helps you to fight unwelcome intruders.

What happens if we do not sleep?

The lack of sleep has consequences – severe ones that should not be taken lightly. If we stick to the aspects of the body and the mind, both are equally impacted and have reciprocal effects on each other.

On the one hand, sleep deprivation or continuous bad sleep can lead to weight gain and obesity. We do not mean that your grumpy mood gives you cravings for unhealthy foods but that lack of sleep can affect your metabolism directly and slow it down. It furthermore can impact your health through negative changes in your immune system, making you more vulnerable to catch a flu or other diseases. If that is not enough, sleeplessness may lead to hypertension, increased stress hormone levels, irregular heartbeats, a stroke, or diabetes. It pretty much weakens and slows down your body, and thus your cognitive function.

On the other hand, sleep deprivation causes many unpleasant situations like fatigue, lack of motivation, and moodiness. On a more scientific level, your brain will start to lose some of its vital capabilities that we described above. You might suffer memory loss, impaired cognitive ability, and lack of focus. All those things can hinder you from following your work or daily tasks. For others who are chronically lacking sleep, the impact can extent to paranoia, anxiety, and depression. Thus, poor sleep can also cause mental health problems.

On top of that, it might not only impact your own health and safety, but that of others. Sleep deprived people are more likely to make mistakes or cause road accidents. So, a good night of sleep can be one of the best things you can do for you and for others!

So, what is “good” sleep?

As with many things in life, good sleep is highly individual and what works for you might not work for others. Age, lifestyle, and other factors play an important role. However, there are some things that we can generalize and can give guidance to what good sleep is.

First, the older you get, the less sleep you need (see table 1). See how you respond to different amounts of sleep and figure out what fits your sleep needs best. Remember, however, that nothing is set in stone and if you suddenly start working out 5 hours a day, you might have to adjust your sleep amount.

AgeRecommended time
Newborns (0-3 months)14 to 17 hours
Infants (4-11 months)12 to 15 hours
Teenagers (14-17 years)8-10 hours
Adults (26-64 years)7-9 hours
Older Adults (≥ 65 years)7-8 hours
Source: National Sleep Foundation

Second, the best sleep habits are consistent and steady routines. Meaning that you cannot skip sleep for several nights and then sleep longer when you have time.  We need to meet our sleep needs every night and make it a priority in our lives. Make the daily an effort to go to bed and wake up at the same time, and yes, also on the weekends.

Third, your sleep environment cannot be neglected. Do you sleep well during a heat wave without air conditioning? We do not neither. Variables such as temperature, air quality, and noise level can affect our sleep quality and must be adjusted accordingly.

Lastly, try to reduce stress before going to bed. We live a more hectic lifestyle and switching off can be difficult. Everyone has their own methods such a cup of tea or meditation, or a repeadetly seen black and white TV movie. See what works best for you and stick to it as consistency is again the key.

Overall, there are still many aspects of good sleep that we have not covered in this post. Sleep is important and an interlocked play between external and internal factors that influence our body and mind. If you consistently sleep bad, even though you follow all the mentioned actions and constantly have the feeling that there might be something wrong, we recommend to consult a specialist or a doctor and tackle your problem together from a medical point of view.

About Us

Sleepiz AG (Ltd.) is a Zürich based startup with a mission to provide patient-centric disease management through seamless integration of contactless monitoring into people’s homes. Sleepiz leverages the power of sleep insights with a device that is simply placed on the bedside table. The device operates in a non-contact fashion and measures movements originating from heart contractions and breathing patterns, as well as body motions with medical grade accuracy.

While currently focusing on respiratory illnesses, Sleepiz aims to improve people’s lives by creating the future of healthcare. By making use of wireless millimeter wave technology, sensor fusion and artificial intelligence, in the future Sleepiz will not only be able to diagnose sleep disorders but also perform long-term monitoring. Thereby, the progression of chronic diseases will be monitored to allow faster intervention and better treatment.

Sleepiz is touching lives without touching.

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