Sleep: It's more important than you think!
Getting enough quality sleep these days is difficult with our busy schedules. Most days I find myself cracking open an energy drink or running to the local coffee shop for a mid-day caffeine boost several times a week. In a culture where success, hard work, and the "go-go-go" mentality is glorified, sleep takes a back seat to getting ahead as we sacrifice our rest for achievement. However, sleep is crucial to keeping up with our busy lifestyles and achieving our goals.
Why do we need sleep?
Getting a good night's rest is essential for brain growth and development in children and adolescents , but did you know that sleep is just as important for adults? Adults need 7-8 hours of quality sleep to maintain physical health, healthy brain functioning, and emotional well-being. Sleep is not just for the young; it's for everyone!
How Sleep Affects Physical Health
Sleep helps maintain a healthy balance of the hormones that make you feel hungry (ghrelin) or full (leptin). When you don't get enough sleep, your level of ghrelin goes up and your level of leptin goes down. This makes you feel hungrier than when you're well-rested.
Sleep also affects how your body reacts to insulin. Sleep deficiency results in a higher than normal blood sugar level, which may increase your risk for diabetes.
Deep sleep helps support healthy growth and development by triggering the body to release the hormone that promotes normal growth in children and teens. This hormone also boosts muscle mass and helps repair cells and tissues in children, teens, and adults. Sleep also plays a role in puberty and fertility.
Your immune system relies on sleep to stay healthy. This system defends your body against foreign or harmful substances. Ongoing sleep deficiency can change the way in which your immune system responds. For example, if you're sleep deficient, you may have trouble fighting common infections.
How Sleep Improves Mental and Emotional Well-being
While you're sleeping, your brain is preparing for the next day. It's forming new pathways to help you learn and remember information.
Studies show that a good night's sleep improves learning. Whether you're learning math, how to play the piano, how to perfect your golf swing, or how to drive a car, sleep helps enhance your learning and problem-solving skills.
Sleep also helps you pay attention, make decisions, and be creative. Studies also show that sleep deficiency alters activity in some parts of the brain. If you're sleep deficient, you may have trouble making decisions, solving problems, controlling your emotions and behavior, and coping with change.
Sleep deficiency also has been linked to depression, suicide, and risk-taking behavior.
The Dangers of Sleep Deprivation
Sleep deficiency can interfere with work, school, driving, and social functioning. You might have trouble learning, focusing, and reacting. Also, you might find it hard to judge other people's emotions and reactions. Sleep deficiency also can make you feel frustrated, cranky, or worried in social situations.
Sleep deficiency is a common public health problem in the United States. People in all age groups report not getting enough sleep. As part of a health survey for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 7–19 percent of adults in the United States reported not getting enough rest or sleep every day. Nearly 40 percent of adults report falling asleep during the day without meaning to at least once a month. Also, an estimated 50 to 70 million Americans have chronic (ongoing) sleep disorders.
Sleep deficiency is linked to many chronic health problems, including heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, stroke, obesity, and depression. In addition, sleep deficiency increases the likelihood of injury. For example, driving while sleepy is just as dangerous, or more, as driving drunk. It's estimated that driver sleepiness is a factor in about 100,000 car accidents each year, resulting in about 1,500 deaths. Drivers aren't the only ones affected by sleep deficiency. It can affect people in all lines of work, including health care workers, pilots, students, lawyers, mechanics, and
assembly line workers.
Simple Ways You Can Improve Your Sleep
Get exercise during the day
Children and adolescents should do 60 minutes or more of physical activity each day.
Adults should get at least 30 minutes.
Exercising during the day is better; nighttime exercise may keep you awake
Don’t eat, read, do homework, or play video games in bed
The bed should be for sleeping; otherwise your body will think that once you get in bed, it’s time to get work done!
T.V., and iPod screens contain blue light, which tricks your body into thinking it’s still daytime. Having these screens on in the bedroom causes the body to suppress melatonin, the sleep chemical, which makes falling asleep difficult.
Try using the “night shift” on your iPad or iPhone
Stop use of electronics with blue light an hour before bedtime
Avoid caffeine after noontime
Caffeine has a long half-life. Chocolate, soda, and tea may keep you up at night if consumed in the afternoon.
Our bodies are sensitive to rituals. Try having a bedtime ritual that is the same each night.
Go to bed the same time every night and wake up at the same time every morning. This includes weekends!
People tend to sleep more on the weekends, thinking that this helps "catch up" on the sleep they missed during the week. However, this only continues to confuse the body's sleep cycle.
Try using the "bedtime" feature on your smart phone to help remind you to stick to your sleep schedule.
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