As far as we know, sleep is essential for all living things and humans are obviously no exception. Although the reasons why we sleep are not entirely clear, we do know that sleep affects many aspects of our physical, mental and emotional health; in fact, we all manage, without great effort, to point out some benefits of a good night’s sleep and, above all, the consequences we feel after one or several sleepless nights.
Sleep is crucial for the overall functioning of the organism, being essential, for example, for the processes of concentration, creativity, consolidation of memories and for the ability to learn. But the benefits of sleep largely transcend brain functions: its positive influence is also associated with physical recovery, energy conservation, strengthening immune function and hormonal regulation – with important consequences in terms of appetite (and weight), for example. In addition, sleep is also a determinant of cardiovascular health, and sleep deprivation is associated with increased cardiovascular risk and associated diseases, due to an increase in blood pressure, cortisol levels, inflammation and insulin resistance.
From a mental health perspective, the adverse effects of chronic sleep deprivation – so common in modern societies – include mood, behavioral and cognitive changes, with varying degrees of impact at the personal, social, occupational, educational and functioning levels. of families. In fact, there is a close relationship between sleep disorders and the existence of signs and symptoms of mental distress; this relationship, although evident, is complex: while sleep problems are more likely to affect people with psychiatric disorders compared to the general population, sleep-related changes can, by themselves, significantly increase the risk of developing mental disease. Thus,
In adopting a healthy lifestyle, it is therefore essential to seek non-pathological sleep through proper sleep hygiene. These sleep hygiene measures are simple but effective measures in promoting better sleep quality and should always be applied before considering any pharmacological intervention for this purpose. These include establishing a sleep routine, with fixed times for going to bed and getting up; relaxation in the period before bedtime, avoiding discussions or stressful situations; the creation of a calm and comfortable environment in the room, with regard to temperature, light and noise; avoid daytime naps; do not eat, work, study or watch television in bed, which should be used exclusively for sleeping and sexual activity; avoid checking the clock repeatedly and counting the hours of sleep; avoid heavy meals or consumption of alcohol or coffee in the hours before sleep; avoid smoking before bedtime or at night; exercise regularly, but not in the hours before bed. Another important measure is to abandon the use of television, computer and mobile phone in the moments before sleep: the screens of these devices emit blue light that largely interferes with our circadian rhythm, inhibiting the production of melatonin – asleep hormone . So, for your health, drop the habit of endlessly scrolling through social media while you get ready for bed.
The frenetic pace of modern society forced us to maximize the 24 hours a day, in an attempt to reconcile work with hobbies and leisure activities, interpersonal and family relationships, often sleep being the main sacrifice in this process. Every time we decide to shorten our total sleep time, let us remember that these hours gained are after all a waste, as they result in a clear loss of our quality of life and health at all levels.