How important is sleep? 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 repair themselves. We often think that sleep is downtime for our body when, in fact, our bodies 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 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.
Guidelines for adequate sleep by age group*
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
*National Sleep Foundation
What happens when 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 deprive yourself of many hours of sleep and 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 falls asleep at the wheel.
Lack of sleep can increase your risk for many health issues. High blood pressure is linked to a lack of adequate, deep, restorative sleep.
Is this why you’re always hungry?
When you are overtired, you more likely will overeat and succumb to cravings. This happens because your hunger hormones, leptin and ghrelin are not working properly. When you are overtired, your ghrelin levels are elevated 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.
Can’t we do better for our teens?
Teen-agers who consistently lack sleep perform poorly in school. Studies show that teens who can start school later in the day perform better in testing. This is likely 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 is linked to 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 using sleep deprivation 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 is to ensure healthy sleep habits. Consistently go to bed and get up at the same time each day after sufficient sleep. It will synch your circadian rhythm to make you well rested to face your life.
As a health coach, I work with women who are facing serious health challenges like heart disease, metabolic syndrome and diabetes or who have been diagnosed as having a precursor to a serious health issue such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol or high blood sugar. I help them make food and lifestyle changes so they can get healthy, live longer and enjoy a fuller, happier, more energetic life. If you would like to have a free consultation about the health challenges you have and the improvements you would like to see in your health, click here to schedule a no strings attached call.