February 21, 2017
Part 1: Understanding The Importance Of Sleep
Sleep. Everyone needs it, but so many of us don’t get enough of it. 1 in 3 adults fail to meet the minimum CDC standards for sleep, and nearly 20% of some age groups report feeling “exhausted” sometime in the last three months.
And it all comes back to sleep. Though many scientists continue to research the exact method by which sleep helps restore and revitalize the body, scientific consensus strongly supports its importance for one’s well-being.
Healthy sleep habits are crucial to maintaining good health, a positive mindset, and can even help reduce your risks of certain diseases. To truly understand why peaceful, restful sleep is so crucial, let’s take a look at the basics of sleep.
What Sleep Does For Your Body
Sleep can be thought of as the ultimate maintenance opportunity for your body. Your heart rate, respiration, and blood flow all begin to slow as you sink more deeply into slumber. As you fall further into deep REM sleep, your “muscle tone” (contraction of your muscles) reaches almost zero – none of your muscles are engaged in activity.
This period of rest gives your body the time it needs to repair damage to tissue and muscles, and rebuild stamina in your body. Human growth hormone, which is secreted in its highest quantities during sleep, plays a key part in the optimization of muscle and tissue recovery and growth.
Further physiological impacts include low respiration, blood flow, and heart rate, which allows your cardiovascular system time to rest. These hours of prolonged, lowered heart rate are extremely valuable to maintaining a healthy heart.
What Sleep Does For Your Brain
Sleep is also hugely beneficial to your brain. Most predominant scientific theories involve “consolidation” – the idea that the brain uses the restful times of sleep to categorize, organize, and store thoughts and memories in the mind.
Current research indicates that sleep may be a way in which memories and other important information can be moved from “short-term” storage in the brain into stronger, long-term memory banks. This allows the mind to empty itself of what it has processed during the course of the day and store important information for long-term retrieval.
Essentially, what happens in the brain during sleep can be thought of as similar to what happens in the body – a long period of rest allows the brain to restore itself and prepare for another day.
How Much Do I Really Need?
The National Sleep Foundation provides the following guidelines for recommended hours of sleep per age group:
- Newborns: 14-17 hours per day
- Infants: 12-15 hours per day
- Toddlers: 11-14 hours per day
- Preschoolers: 10-13 hours per day
- School Age Children: 9-11 hours per day
- Teenagers: 8-10 hours per day
- Younger Adults: 7-9 hours per day
- Adults: 7-9 hours per day
- Older Adults 65+: 7-8 hours per day
These guidelines are a good rule of thumb. If you’re over the age of 18, chances are you’ll function best with somewhere between 7-9 hours of sleep per day. Most importantly, this means quality, uninterrupted slumber – not short nights with naps to make up the difference. Making it a priority to get your recommended amount every day is essential for your body and mind to run efficiently and effectively.