When was the last time you had a good night sleep? Do you sleep through the night without interruption, or find yourself awake at 3AM running through tomorrow’s to do list? Or perhaps you find wakeups particularly challenging, taking advantage of the snooze button more often than not.
According to a 2014 study from the National Sleep Foundation, 35 percent of adult Americans report their sleep quality as “poor”. The average nightly sleep is 7 hours, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it is uninterrupted or particularly restful. The study also draws direct correlation between poor quality sleep and poor quality health.
Most adults need 7-8 hours sleep a night to ensure they’re rested. Adolescents require 9-10 hours and young children require 10 or more hours per night.
It’s easy to lose sleep with a busy schedule, late work hours and access to our digital lives around the clock. But sleep isn’t just a time to shut down and recharge. It is also an active period when the mind processes and the body restores.
Sleeping has several critical functions that contribute to optimal health.
The quantity and quality of sleep has a profound impact on learning and memory. A sleep-deprived person cannot focus their attention optimally and are then unable to learn efficiently. Creating a memory happens in three stages: acquisition refers to the introduction of the new information or experience into the brain, consolidation represents the transfer of that information from our short-term memory to our long-term memory so that is remains stable, and recall refers to our ability to access that information after it has been stored – whether it is days or years later. Consolidation happens when we sleep. If we do not have restful sleep, our memory is directly impacted.
Helps with weight management
Sleep helps to maintain hormonal balance in the body, which helps with healthier eating and steady energy levels. When we are tired, we are more likely to reach for foods with high salt or sugar content to temporarily boost our energy levels. Fatigue is also the first reason not to hit the gym or go for a walk.
Reduces the risk of illness
Studies show that lack of sleep can leave you more susceptible to getting sick due to a weakened immune system. Lack of sleep can also impact how quickly you recover if you do get sick. During sleep, the body releases proteins called cytokines, some of which help to fight infection and inflammation when you’re sick or under stress. Sleep deprivation decreases the number of cytokines produced, leaving your bodies defenses in a weaker state.