Imagine waking up in the morning well rested, so no caffeinated drinks or multiple naps are required to get through the day.
Unfortunately, lack of sleep is widespread and can affect a person’s mental and physical health and wellbeing.
What is sleep and why is it important?
According to the article “Sleep Deprivation and Deficiency,” published by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), our body has an internal clock called the circadian rhythm that regulates when we sleep and when we are awake based on Environmental notices of light and temperature.
Your brain can recover from the day while you sleep. Even if it feels like nothing happens when you are at rest, the article “Brain Basics: Understanding Sleep” published by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) in 2019 explains that the brain and body remain very active during sleep and have multiple phases of sleep that have many changes in eye movement, heart rate, and brain activity.
Getting enough sleep is linked to hormonal balance, weight management, repair and maintenance of tissues and muscles, and immune function. In adults, getting enough sleep is associated with a lower risk of obesity. Two hormones that control hunger and satiety, leptin and ghrelin, are affected by the quality and quantity of sleep.
Studies from the NHLBI article also suggest that getting enough sleep is linked to increased ability to learn new information.
Your blood pressure tends to drop while you sleep. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published an article in 2021 entitled “How Does Sleep Affect Your Heart Health?” Suggesting that sleep problems can lead to elevated blood pressure over a long period of time, leading to an increased risk of damage to the heart and blood Blood vessels.
The NHLBI recommends that adults get 7-9 hours of sleep a day. You still need the same recommended amount of sleep as you become an older adult. As you age, sleep tends to become more sporadic, with waking up more frequently during the night, going to bed earlier, and waking up earlier. In the 2020 article, A Good Night’s Sleep, written by the National Institute on Aging (NIA), older adults may be irritable, forgetful, depressed, or more likely to fall if they don’t get enough sleep at night. Regardless of age, sleep is very important for mental and physical health.
The importance of sleep for children
The need for sleep changes over the course of a person’s life cycle. The 2019 NINDS article explains that immediately after birth, infants may need up to 18 hours of sleep per day to keep up with the rapid growth and development during this phase of life. As children get older, the need for sleep decreases, but the recommended length of sleep per day is still much higher than the adult need for sleep due to changes in early childhood and adolescence.
The 2019 CDC article “Sleep and Health” suggests that children ages 6 to 12 need 9 to 12 hours of sleep per day and adolescents ages 13 to 18 need 8 to 10 hours of sleep per day. Young children generally have an early bedtime and need naps throughout the day, especially for children of preschool age or younger. Infants often take several naps a day, then reduce to one or two naps as they get older in toddlerhood and early childhood.
According to the NHLBI article, children can experience mood swings and lack of motivation when they don’t get enough sleep. A lack of sleep can reduce academic performance. The CDC article states that sleep deprivation is linked to attention and behavior problems, especially if the child dozes off during class and does not retain the information taught by their teachers. These problems can be noticed by the teacher and classmates during school hours. The CDC also explains that children who don’t get enough sleep can also be at increased risk for many chronic diseases, such as type 2 diabetes or obesity, behavior problems, and physical problems.
The NHLBI article explains that it is important to set bedtime and wake up time around the same time each day to promote healthy sleep patterns. Bedtime is beneficial for a child to know that it is time to settle down and sleep for the night.
Danielle Pacheco, author of the article “Sleep Strategies for Children” from 2020, thinks it is helpful if children do at least one hour of exercise a day. However, vigorous exercise two hours or less before bed is discouraged as it can increase energy levels and make it difficult for children to fall asleep.
What if a person is not getting enough sleep?
According to the NHLBI article, sleep deprivation occurs when you are not getting enough sleep, sleeping at the wrong times all day, not sleeping well, or having a sleep disorder. You can feel very tired all day long. It is also common for people who are not getting enough sleep to fall asleep reading a book, watching TV, or sitting somewhere. Insufficient sleep can lead to difficulties with memory, decision making, problem solving, concentration, reaction times, and more.
Delayed response times can be especially worrying if you are tired while driving. A 2020 article published by the Cleveland Clinic entitled “Here’s What Happens When You Don’t Get Enough Sleep (And How Much You Really Need a Night)” concluded that the likelihood of drowsiness while driving a car Car accident increased.
According to the 2020 NIA article, “A Good Night’s Sleep,” insomnia is a common sleep problem, especially among older adults, that occurs when they have trouble falling and staying asleep. Over time, insomnia can become chronic and lead to fear of bedtime. Developing healthier bedtime habits, like the tips listed below, can help resolve insomnia. Always consult a doctor if getting a good night’s sleep becomes a problem.
Tips to improve sleep
The following tips were featured in the NHLBI article “Sleep Deprivation and Deprivation”.
- Make exercise part of your daily routine, about 20-30 minutes a day, but try not to exercise for at least two hours before bed.
- Avoid caffeine before bed.
- Limit screen usage for an hour before bed.
- Keep your bedroom cool and dark so you can fall asleep and sleep through the night.
- Avoid lying in bed when you are not tired. Get up, read a book, stretch, or do something else until you feel tired.
Getting a good night’s sleep is an essential part of maintaining mental and physical health. By making sleep a priority, you can optimize your health and wellbeing, and improve your energy and performance in school, at work, and at home.