World Sleep Day 2021: All you need to know

Written By: Vyomica Berry WION Web Team
New Delhi, India Published: Mar 19, 2021, 07:48 PM(IST)

In this representative image, a woman can be seen sleeping in a hotel room Photograph:( Reuters )

Story highlights

Sleep is known to be critical to physical and mental health, essential for tissue repair, cell regeneration, immune function, memory, and for regulating mood and emotions

World Sleep Day is celebrated annually on March 19 to highlight the importance of healthy sleep and a global call to action regarding all aspects related to it. These include medicine, education, social aspects and driving.

It publicly displays efforts being taken toward the prevention and management of sleep disorders. It was created and hosted by the World Sleep Society.

Who created World Sleep Day?
The annual awareness event was started by a group of dedicated healthcare providers and members of the medical community working and studying in the area of sleep medicine and research. The goal of the first World Sleep Day was to bring together sleep healthcare providers to discuss and distribute sleep information around the world. The first co-chairs of World Sleep Day were Liborio Parrino, MD, Associate Professor of Neurology at Parma University, Italy and Antonio Culebras, MD, Professor of Neurology, Upstate Medical University, and Consultant, The Sleep Center, Community General Hospital, Syracuse, New York, USA.

Why was World Sleep Day created?
Time and time again, sleep medicine professionals and researchers came up against the belief that sleep was not important enough in personal health and well-being to be a priority. That coupled with society’s 24/7 flow, the founders of this awareness event aim to celebrate the importance of healthy sleep.

Who supports World Sleep Day?
World Sleep Day is hosted by the World Sleep Society (WSS), a nonprofit based in the United States. Per the organizational bylaws, World Sleep Society does not support, recommend or endorse any products of services. The awareness event does accept corporate sponsorships to help support the cost to host the event, but the World Sleep Society, the World Sleep Day Committee, or any person affiliated with WSS does not endorse or recommend commercial products, treatments, or companies.

Here are some important facts about sleep:

Sleep is known to be critical to physical and mental health, essential for tissue repair, cell regeneration, immune function, memory, and for regulating mood and emotions.

Scientists are providing a fuller understanding of the essential role that sleep plays in brain health, identifying an abrupt transition at about 2.4 years of age when its primary purpose shifts from brain-building to maintenance and repair.

There are basically two types of sleep, each tied to specific brain waves and neuronal activity. REM, with the eyes moving quickly from side to side behind closed eyelids, is deep sleep with vivid dreams. Non-REM sleep is largely dreamless.

During REM sleep, the brain forms new neural connections by building and strengthening synapses - the junctions between nerve cells, or neurons - that enable them to communicate, reinforcing learning and consolidating memories. During sleep, the brain also repairs the modicum of daily neurological damage it typically experiences to genes and proteins within neurons as well as clearing out byproducts that build up.

At about 2.4 years of age, the findings showed, sleep’s primary function changed from building and cutting connections during REM sleep to neural repair during both REM and non-REM sleep.

REM sleep declines with age. Newborns, who can sleep about 16 hours daily, spend about 50 per cent of their sleeping time in REM, but there is a pronounced drop-off at around 2.4 years. It drops to about 25 per cent by age 10 and to about 10 per cent to 15 per cent around age 50.

According to a study conducted by Harvard University, the international penchant for watching television every evening before going to sleep, playing video games late into the night or checking emails and text messages before turning off the lights could be interfering with people’s sleep habits all across the globe.

Baby boomers, or people aged 46-64 years old, were the biggest offenders of watching television every night before going to sleep, while more than a third of 13-18 year-olds and 28 percent of young adults 19-29 year olds played video games before bedtime.

Sixty one percent also said they used their computer or laptop at least a few nights each week.

And a propensity to stay in touch means that even people who have managed to fall asleep, are being woken up by cellphones, texts and emails during the night.

Generation Z’ers, 13-18 year olds, were the most sleep-deprived group, with 22 percent describing themselves as “sleepy,” compared to only nine percent of baby boomers.

Sleep experts recommend that teenagers get 9 hours and 15 minutes of sleep a night but adolescents in the study were only averaging 7 hours and 26 minutes on weeknights.

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