Whenever it is necessary to manage our schedules and add a few hours to the day, it seems quite reasonable to reduce sleep hours, labeling sleep as expendable or negotiable.
But is sleep really optional or even a luxury in this society that never sleeps?
Sleep neglect may begin with the misunderstanding that sleep is just a moment of rest for the body accompanied by a kind of numbness of the mind. This belief could not be further from the truth, since sleep is a non-negotiable biological necessity of the human condition and, in fact, during some stages of sleep our mind is up to 30% more active than when we are awake!
Sleep is, and remains, a mystery, yet it is known that it is irrefutably the most effective behavior we can take to restore health to our minds and bodies every day. It's time to get to know and claim your right to a good night's sleep and to break the stigma in relation to sleep. Sleep is not negotiable nor is it a symbol of laziness, sleep is vitality and a source of physical and mental health.
Why do we need to sleep?
Through multiple studies carried out over the last 20 years, it is possible to understand the various, and almost infinite, benefits that sleep is able to offer every day to the health of our mind and body. At the level of the mind, sleep strengthens and promotes multiple cognitive functions, from our capacity for learning and memory to our ability to make decisions and solve problems. Furthermore, sleep balances and restores the emotional circuits that allow us to regulate our emotions and feelings even in difficult situations. Passing through the benefits in the body, sleep repairs our immune barrier and, consequently, promotes our ability to prevent the development of infections and other diseases. Additionally, an adequate sleep pattern renews metabolism, balancing insulin and blood glucose levels and is associated with maintaining a healthy condition of the entire cardiovascular system.
If summarizing the long list of sleep benefits wasn't enough to convince the reader that we need both sleep and breathing for our bodies to function fully, take a look at the equally extensive list of the harms of a pattern. of inadequate sleep. Studies show us that sleeping less than six hours a night has adverse consequences on physical health, such as an increased risk of cardiovascular and gastrointestinal diseases, Alzheimer's, diabetes and certain types of cancer, and on mental health, as it represents a risk factor for the development of depression, anxiety disorders and other mental illnesses.
What is Insomnia?
Insomnia is a very common sleep disorder and is essentially characterized by a dissatisfaction with the quality or quantity of sleep, associated with complaints such as "I sleep all night, but I don't rest at all" or "I spend the night half awake, half asleep ”. Furthermore, in this disorder there is a difficulty in initiating and/or maintaining sleep during the night. There are several factors at play in the development of Insomnia, however the most common are: high levels of stress; difficult or traumatic events; change in sleep habits or jet lag; physical pain; sedentary lifestyle; emotional disturbances such as Depression or Anxiety Disorders; and side effects of certain medications.
Living with Insomnia is a challenge, as it compromises our functioning in various areas of our life and causes discomfort, however there are effective tools to treat this disorder and achieve a healthy sleep pattern.
What is Sleep Therapy?
Cognitive-Behavioral Sleep Therapy is currently the most effective and first-line intervention in the treatment of Insomnia. The medication can be used as a resource and combined in the most severe cases, however, alone, psychopharmacological therapy is not as effective in the long term when compared to Cognitive-Behavioral therapy.
As its name implies, Cognitive-Behavioral Sleep Therapy explores the connection between mental aspects (for example, expectations and beliefs about sleep) and behavioral aspects (for example, things we do that maintain the symptoms of Insomnia).
The initial phase of this therapy is dedicated to the assessment of the sleep pattern; the next phase is a (re)education of what sleep is and essential rules for healthy sleep hygiene; and at a later stage, the intervention itself is presented with the aim of signaling and modifying beliefs or behaviors that are harmful to a good night's sleep.
Protect your sleep and make it a priority in your life because, in reality, giving up an hour or two of sleep is limiting our ability to function during the day, and undermining our physical and mental health.
We are the society that never sleeps, but are we really awake?
Clemente, V. (2006). Como tratar os doentes com insónia crónica? O contributo da Psicologia Clínica. Revista Portuguesa de Clínica Geral, 22, 635-644.
Moorcroft, W. H. (2013). Understanding sleep and dreaming (2nd ed.). Springer.
Walker, M. (2017). Why we sleep? Penguin Books.