I spoke to a friend today who is heavily invested in her passion project. She becomes so engrossed in her work that she deprives herself of sleep. After hearing this bit of news from her, I decided to dig out this post from before as a reminder of the importance of adequate sleep. Read on to see how important it is.
How important is sleep? Beyond feeling rested and getting rid of dark circles under the eyes, sleep has a very important role in our lives and without it our health suffers.
Why do we need sleep?
While we sleep, our cells are being repaired. We tend to think that sleep is downtime for our body when, in fact, we are quite active during sleep. While there is still a lot of mystery around the sleep process, a lot of information is known about its importance.
During sleep, our bodies process and store information from the day before and solidify memories. As we go through life, we are bombarded by a lot of information and it’s during sleep that we are able to organize and commit much of it to long-term memory.
We require long periods of sleep to rebuild, repair and restore muscle and other tissue and to synthesize hormones. Because young children learn so much during their earliest years, like language and other life skills needed to survive, it is likely that they require the most sleep.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, the guidelines for adequate sleep by age group are as follows:
infants (4-11 months) 12-15 hours
school age children (6-13 years) 9-11 hours
teenagers (14-17 years) 8-10 hours
young adults and adults (18-64 years) 7-9 hours
older adults (65+ years) 7-8 hours
What happens if we don’t get enough sleep?
Sleep deprivation has many detrimental effects on your health and well-being. Although it is a good idea to try to make up for lost sleep, you cannot accumulate a large sleep deficit and then make up for it by sleeping many hours afterward.
Sleep deprivation can make one accident-prone and clumsy. Drowsy driving is as bad as driving while intoxicated. Many fatal accidents occur when the driver has fallen asleep at the wheel.
There are many health issues that are made worse by a lack of sleep. High blood pressure has been linked to a lack of adequate, deep, restorative sleep.
When you are overtired, you are more likely to overeat and to succumb to cravings. This is due, in part, to the fact that your hunger hormones, leptin and ghrelin are not working properly. When you are overtired, your ghrelin levels could be high causing you to feel hungry while your leptin levels are low, causing you to not feel satisfied or full after eating. Additionally, your metabolism is negatively impacted by a lack of sleep and could contribute to the development or the exacerbation of diabetes.
Teen-agers who consistently lack sleep perform poorly in school. It’s been shown that teens who can start school later in the day than the typical high school day starts, perform better in testing. This is possibly because their circadian rhythms are such that they are not ready to sleep early enough at night to get adequate sleep before they have to get up for school that starts very early in the morning. Some schools have implemented an early morning nap opportunity for high-schoolers and have found that this helps in school performance.
Lack of sleep has also been associated with mood disorders and depression and other mental health issues. People who don’t get enough sleep may have trouble regulating their emotions. One way prisoners of war are broken by their captors is by being deprived of sleep as a means of torture. Extreme sleep deprivation causes mental and physical harm that will ultimately lead to death.
The best habit you can develop for yourself to ensure healthy sleep habits is to consistently go to bed and get up at the same time each day after sufficient sleep. This is how you are able to keep your circadian rhythm in synch and you can be sure you are well rested to face your life.
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