By now we know that sleep is good for our overall health. Not only does it help strengthen memory and mood, keep you trim, and strengthen your immune system, but snoozing also helps the body repair damaged tissue, produces crucial hormones, fights inflammation and keeps your heart effective.
According to the South African Society of Sleep Medicine (Sassm), sleep is made up of two distinctly different states - “non-rapid eye movement sleep” (NREM sleep), and “rapid eye movement sleep” (REM sleep) or dreaming sleep.
Dr Gaby Prinsloo said the average sleep a person requires is eight hours. However, she says it does vary for each individual.
Prinsloo said a small percentage of people could thrive and function on six hours of sleep.
“Most people are so used to getting too little sleep that our bodies start thinking that this is normal, but in reality it’s not.
“If we consistently slept longer, our bodies would feel much better and our energy levels would be a lot better,” said Prinsloo.
Adolescents and children are different and require more sleep because their minds are still developing and older people require the same amount because their sleep is generally more fragmented, she added.
What happens when insomnia or sleep apnoea or life stressors cause you to chronically lose sleep?
According to experts, sleep deprivation will not only affect your health, including the functionality of your heart, immune system deficiencies and infertility problems, but people who sleep less have impaired concentration, emotional irrationality, forgetfulness and increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
Shelly Meltzer, head of the Dietary Practice at the UCT-based Sports Science Institute of South Africa, said your diet could impact the quality of your sleep in many different ways.
Meltzer said eating too much food close to the time of going to bed negatively impacted sleep, as your body did not have the time to digest the food.
If you haven’t had enough to eat, your quality of sleep was also affected.
“Some people find having carbohydrates consumed more than an hour before sleep reduces the time to falling asleep, and protein may also result in better sleep quality,” said Meltzer.
She said there were some foods, such as turkey, milk and possibly tart cherries and kiwi fruit, that might lead to a good sleep effect as they stimulated melatonin (a hormone secreted by the pineal gland) or serotonin, which promote good sleep.
Meltzer suggests that people avoid consuming foods and liquids high in caffeine - such as chocolate, some teas and coffee - just before bed. Also, avoid drinking too much water to avoid going to the toilet repeatedly and disturbing your sleep.