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Sleep on It, or Solve Your Problems the Healthy Way

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Too little or too much sleep is not good for people and, somehow, everyone knows this. Nevertheless, this time I will expose some facts that can be interesting, such as how sleeping too little increases the necessity of eating sugar, therefore, he who sleeps less will attack cakes and ice creams, as a sort of decompensation prize.

When it comes to behaviours, there are, however, other data that you may not know yet: several studies about this matter reveal that, as a consequence, people further lie, steal, and cheat on their neighbours. It may not be on purpose, but it does happen. As it happens also forgetting things, almost in the exact proportion of the ones they are currently learning, circa 40%, and, of course, the much-hyped attention deficit.

We also know that during the full moon we sleep less by 20 minutes and lose 30% of deep sleep. Another study in 2014 showcased that there are 17% more road accidents connected to people with sleep deficiency. The skin dries out in only one night of lost sleep, making face features and wrinkles more creased. This so-called lack of sleep increases the desire to eat, leading to a progressive weight increase. Still associated with lack of sleep, there is also increased blood pressure, cholesterol, and diabetes

Sleep is the tireless friend that cleans our brain toxins each night. We very much need this repairing and fresh time. A tip to make it happen? Find the ideal room temperature (the majority of people feel comfortable between 18 and 22 degrees Celsius), do not ingest alcoholic drinks during the night, or the so-called exciting beverages that contain caffeine or theine, and avoid large meals at night or before going to sleep. Sleep disturbance is a vicious cycle that can lead to chronic depression and anxiety

The so-called REM (rapid eye movement) occurs throughout the night and during deep sleep cycles. It is also during this phase that we dream. A person can usually have six periods of REM sleep per night. It is during REM that some of our memories and emotional questions are processed and solved. 

According to sleep scholar, Rick Wassin, and only after several studies, the REM phase is the one that mostly contributes to solve and regulate emotions. Now, if there are disturbances during such critical periods, this may result in several emotional memories being neither processed nor solved. 

Another research done recently, with a group of people in the Netherlands, revealed that individuals with these disturbances (during REM), had more conflicts during the day, became more aggressive with a bigger tendency to search for brawls, and also suffered from an increase in anxiety. Thus, we close the vicious cycle: bigger anxiety during the day, bigger difficulty to sleep at night. 

An adult should sleep around 7–8 hours per day. But whoever thinks that too much sleep (more than nine hours) can avoid these sorts of disturbances is dead wrong. ‘Oversleep’ and ‘hypersomnia’ may also bring similar problems – albeit not so serious – and even if not due to depression, tiredness or flu. In short: sleeping is a healthy way to process and solve problems. And now that we know why, we understand the reason of the wise expression sleep on it.

Ana Pinto-Coelho is an addiction counsellor with a degree from the University of Oxford. She runs a private practice in Lisbon, Portugal, called Safe Place. Follow her on Twitter.

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