Slumber, sweet slumber.
No animal, including human beings, can survive without sleep.
As far back as 1894, Russian physician and scientist, Marie de Manacéine found that when she kept puppies in constant activity without allowing them to sleep, they died after just a few days.
Scientists have also experimented with sleep deprivation in humans, noting similar symptoms: a decrease in mental function, a lack of awareness and attention to the world, a distorted sense of time, and immense fatigue.
It’s easy to overlook how important sleep is, until you haven’t slept enough. So, what is it about getting a good night’s sleep that makes us feel our best?
Why we need sleep.
Sleep significantly impacts brain function. First, a healthy amount of sleep is vital for “brain plasticity,” or the brain’s ability to adapt to input. If we sleep too little, we become unable to process what we’ve learned during the day, and we have more trouble remembering it in the future. Researchers also believe that sleep may help remove waste products from brain cells – something that seems to occur less efficiently when the brain is awake.
Sleep is vital to the rest of the body, too. When people don’t get enough sleep, their health risks rise. Symptoms of depression, seizures, high blood pressure, and migraines can worsen. Immunity is compromised, increasing the likelihood of illness and infection. Sleep also plays a role in metabolism: Even one night of missed sleep can create a prediabetic state in an otherwise healthy person.
Many studies have revealed that people who sleep poorly are at a greater risk for a number of diseases and health problems – including obesity, heart disease, infections, diabetes, and depression.
Set your alarm for enough sleep.
How much sleep is enough? Personal needs vary, but here are some general ZZZZs guidelines.
- Adults need an average of 7-8 hours of sleep per night.
- Babies sleep about 16 hours a day.
- Young children need at least 10 hours.
- Teenagers need at least 9 hours.
Tips for getting quality sleep.
To maximize the restorative benefits of sleep, it’s important to get a full night of quality shut eye. Here are some ways to promote a more well-rested you.
- Go to bed at the same time each night and get up at the same time each morning.
- Sleep in a dark, quiet, comfortable environment.
- Exercise daily, but not right before bedtime.
- Limit the use of electronics before bed.
- Relax before bedtime. A warm bath or reading might help.
- Avoid alcohol and stimulants such as caffeine late in the day.
- Avoid nicotine.
- Consult a healthcare professional if you have ongoing sleep problems.
Source: National Institutes of Health. National Sleep Foundation, Popular Science