We sleep about one-third of our lives, so we should have a lot of information about the large chunk of our lives. However, it remains a mysterious process. What we do know is that good health depends partly on ample sleep. If you get too little or too much, you can increase your chances of diabetes, depression, and other conditions.
And though scientists have observed the bad side effects of an improper sleep routine, they don’t entirely understand why those effects happen. Science may not understand the big picture yet, but here are four facts that might surprise you about the role of sleep and how it affects us.
1. Newborns sleep around 14 to 17 hours per day.
There are downsides to being an infant, like the whole diaper situation and being immobile, but when it comes to sleep, newborns have it made. Babies generally sleep around two-thirds of the day.
Newborns need this much sleep because they grow and develop at such a fast pace. In fact, babies can double their body weight in the first five months of their lives. Meanwhile, their brains grow by leaps and bounds, which also necessitates lots of naptime.
2. Missing out on sleep can increase your appetite.
A 2004 study of over 1,000 volunteers determined that a shorter sleep duration was associated with an increased body mass index. Researchers say hormones may explain the link between sleep deprivation and obesity.
Those who slept five hours per night compared to those who slept eight hours had lower levels of leptin, a hormone that reduces appetite. Those who slept just five hours per night also had higher levels of ghrelin, a hormone that increases appetite. Lower leptin and higher ghrelin levels could significantly increase appetite in those who sleep less.
3. Snoring is the most prevalent cause of sleep disruption.
Snoring affects the sleep of around 90 million Americans, and more than one-third of snorers regularly suffer from poor sleep due to the annoying and involuntary habit.
Though people have long joked about snoring, it can be cause for concern and indicative of serious health problems. A Hungarian study found that loud snorers have a 34 percent higher chance of heart attack and a 67 percent greater chance of stroke.
Those who snore softly can take comfort in the study’s findings. Soft snorers were at a much lower risk of cardiovascular disease than loud snorers.
4. Sleep is crucial to turning information into stable memories.
Researchers continue to learn more about what happens during sleep, but still, no one knows exactly why we need it. According to researchers from Harvard Medical School, the most compelling theory is that sleep allows us to reorganize our brains after learning.
In order to form stable memories, animals must acquire and consolidate new information. The acquisition process happens when animals are awake, and scientists believe the consolidation process occurs while animals sleep.
This theory gives further insight into why newborns sleep so much. They acquire great amounts of new information every day, and as a result, their brains need more time to consolidate that information into stable memories.