Sleep – why is it so important?
28
May 2021

Sleep is one of the most important functions essential for reducing stress and illness, and to live a healthy life. While we sleep many important functions take place that help the body in physical recovery and repair, support brain development, cardiac function and body metabolism, as well as support learning, improve memory and mood. Sleep is especially important for children playing an important role in growth and overall health.

Sleep deprivation can lead to numerous cognitive deficiencies such as attention lapses, reduced cognition, delayed reactions, and mood shifts. In addition to these, a lack of sleep can also lead to various physical health risks which include obesity, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke and early death.

 

The Sleep Cycle

  • Stage 1 NREM (non-rapid eye movement): This first stage consists of light sleep. Muscles relax and your heart rate, breathing, and eye movements begin to slow down, as do your brain waves.
  • Stage 2 NREM: This second NREM sleep stage is characterized by deeper sleep as your heart rate and breathing rates continue slowing down and the muscles become more relaxed. Eye movements will cease and your body temperature will decrease.
  • Stage 3 NREM: This stage plays an important role in making you feel refreshed and alert the next day. Heartbeat, breathing, and brain wave activity all reach their lowest levels, and the muscles are as relaxed as they will be.
  • REM (rapid eye movement): As the name suggests, your eyes will move back and forth rather quickly under your eyelids. Breathing rate, heart rate, and blood pressure will begin to increase. Dreaming will typically occur during REM sleep, and your arms and legs will become paralyzed – it’s believed this is intended to prevent you from physically acting out on your dreams. The duration of each REM sleep cycle increases as the night progresses. Numerous studies have also linked REM sleep to memory consolidations, the process of converting recently learned experiences into long-term memories.

 

How Much Sleep Do Humans Need?

Age Group

Age Range

Recommended Amount of Sleep per Day

Newborn

0-3 months

14-17 hours

Infant

4-11 months

12-15 hours

Toddler

1-2 years

11-14 hours

Preschool

3-5 years

10-13 hours

School-age

6-13 years

9-11 hours

Teen

14-17 years

8-10 hours

Young Adult

18-25 years

7-9 hours

Adult

26-64 years

7-9 hours

Older Adult

65 years or older

7-8 hours

www.sleepfoundation.org

 

Strategies for getting enough sleep

  • Establish a realistic bedtime and stick to it every night, even on the weekends.
  • Maintain comfortable temperature settings and low light levels in your bedroom.
  • Make sure you have a comfortable sleep environment
  • Consider a “screen ban” on televisions, computers and tablets, cell phones, and other electronic devices in your bedroom.
  • Abstain from caffeine, alcohol, and large meals in the hours leading up to bedtime.
  • Refrain from using tobacco at any time of day or night.
  • Exercise during the day; this can help you wind down in the evening and prepare for sleep.

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