Sleep: How Important Is It?
We need sleep to survive. A good night of sleep is very important to our overall health and ability to function effectively throughout the day. However, when our lives become busy, sleep becomes less of a priority for many of us. William C. Dement, MD, PhD, the Dean of Sleep Disorders Research and Professor of Medicine at Stanford University, states: "Americans have gotten the message that good nutrition and plenty of exercise are important for health, but we have not paid enough attention to the third pillar of good health, which is adequate sleep."
Why Is Sleep So Important?
We need good sleep to thrive. Sleep is important because it affects our mental, physical, and emotional well-being. The benefits of good sleep can affect every moment of our day and every part of our life. Achieving good sleep is essential to both our activities and to our health. Also, as bodybuilders and fitness enthusiasts know, during your sleep is one of the times that your body produces the most growth hormone, therefore the more sleep you get the faster your muscles will heal and recover from exercise.
The Effects Of Sleep Loss
Sleep loss may be associated with significant health problems, such as:
- Depression: Several studies have shown that sleep loss isn't just a result of mental health problems; it can be a significant risk for the development of depression.
- Headaches: Headaches can interfere with sleep, but sleep loss can also provoke headaches.
- Impaired Heart Functioning: People with disrupted sleep schedules, such as shift workers, may be more prone to cardiovascular problems.
Sleep loss can impair our functioning in many ways. It can affect us at:
- Work: People with sleep loss reported poor concentration, lower productivity, and poorer work quality. It has been estimated that lost productivity at work due to sleepiness at work may cost the economy as much as $100 billion annually.
- School: Sleep loss can interfere with memory, logical reasoning, and concentration.
- Home: By making us fatigued, irritable, or forgetful, sleep loss can lead to stress and strained relationships.
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How To Improve Sleep Quality
You can improve the quality of your sleep by following these recommendations:
- Establish relaxing pre-sleep routines. It is important to incorporate time to "wind down" from your daily activities.
- Minimize light, noise, and temperature extremes in the bedroom.
- Avoid large meals just before bedtime. Small snacks are not a problem, but large meals keep the digestive system active and can disrupt sleep.
- Avoid strenuous exercise within two to three hours of bedtime. Strenuous exercise can elevate body temperature and cause difficulty falling asleep at bedtime.
- Avoid caffeine or other stimulants within four hours of bedtime.
How Do You Know If You Need More Sleep?
You know you need more sleep if you:
- Have trouble concentrating and remembering.
- Sometimes lose your sense of humor.
- Work in a stressful environment.
- Are tempted to doze in boring meetings.
- Hit the snooze button repeatedly in the morning.
- Have reduced immunity to disease and viral infections.
- Feel chilled.
- Struggle to get out of bed in the morning.
- Have mood shifts, feel depressed or irritable.
- Experience weight gain.
- Fall asleep watching TV.
- Sleep late on weekends.
- Think that a Saturday afternoon nap is a necessity, not just a luxury.
How Much Sleep Is Needed?
The amount of sleep each person needs depends on many factors, including age. Infants generally require about 16 hours a day, while teenagers need about 9 hours on average. For most adults, 7 to 8 hours a night appears to be the best amount of sleep, although some people may need as few as 5 hours or as many as 10 hours of sleep each day.
However, getting too little sleep creates a "sleep debt," which is much like being overdrawn at a bank. Eventually, your body will demand that the debt be repaid. We don't seem to adapt to getting less sleep than we need; while we may get used to a sleep-depriving schedule, our judgment, reaction time, and other functions are still impaired.
Definitely we can see how important sleep is! Just to summarize, we see that that sleep can prevent health problems and working problems such as concentration and thinking ability, just to name a few. So remember to never underestimate how important a good nights rest is!
- Snoring & Sleep Apnea Dental Treatment Center "The Importance Of Restful Sleep", 2003.
- Ambien "The Importance Of Sleep", 2001-2003.
- Yale-Griffin "The Importance Of Sleep", 1999.
- National Institute Of Neurological Disorders and Stroke "Understanding Sleep", 2003.
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