If you knew that there was one thing you could do for your health that would improve your memory, suppress your appetite, keep you alert, leave you happier, reduce your likelihood of hypertension and stress, and improve your immune function, wouldn’t you do it? Of course you would. So, get a full night’s sleep. Your body and mind need that time for renewal. The strong connection between sleep and health has become more clear as more studies look at specific links between sleep duration and disease.
It’s hard. Parents have a difficult time getting enough sleep, especially parents of very young babies. Hard though it may be, you need to take care of yourself and teach your children to take care of themselves. Chronic sleep loss has a clear, negative effect on your short-term function and medium-term health as well as on your longevity. The consequences are too great not to give yourself this one
- Learning and memory – We retain information (memories and learned tasks) better when we experience memory consolidation as we dream.
- Metabolism and weight – Sleep loss changes the way our bodies process carbohydrates and alters appetite through hormone levels. Lack of sleep leaves you hungry.
- Safety – Tired people make mistakes. The results can be as bad as or worse than intoxication.
- Mood – Lack of sleep leaves us stressed and irritable. Lower serotonin levels can also leave us at risk for depression.
- Heart Health – In the extreme, sleep issues can lead to hypertension and irregular heartbeat.
- Disease – Lack of sleep can weaken your immune system. Increased stress leads to inflammation, which leaves you at greater risk for disease and causes deterioration. Sleep is time for your cells to repair damage of the day.
“Lack of sleep disrupts every physiologic function in the body,” said Eve Van Cauter of the University of Chicago. “We have nothing in our biology that allows us to adapt to this behavior.” “Scientists Finding Out What Losing Sleep Does to a Body,” Washington Post, October 9, 2005.
How Much Sleep Do You Need?
Fifty-eight percent of Canadians say they are often tired, but 18% of Canadians sleep less than 5 hours a day, which is leaving them chronically tired. Twenty-five percent of adults in the U.S. don’t sleep enough half of the time. Sure, a few people are getting enough sleep, but many of us are not—and the problem doesn’t stop with adults.
A new study on naps for toddlers shows that young children who don’t get enough sleep are not only more easily frustrated, which you undoubtedly already knew, but their lack of sleep “may shape their developing emotional brains and put them at risk for lifelong, mood-related problems.” If that doesn’t scare you, consider what happens as your children grow older. Drowsy young drivers are involved in tens of thousands of traffic accidents every year.
Help your whole family get enough sleep.
Newborn babies need 16 or more hours a day.
Preschoolers need about 12 hours a day.
Teens need about 9 hours a day.
Adults need 8 hours a day.
Pregnant women may need several more hours than usual.
How to Stay Asleep
For the good of yourself and your family, create a sleep-friendly household.
- Follow a bedtime ritual.
- Don’t drink so much before bed that you have to use the toilet during the night.
- Stay active during the day.
- Dump the stress.
It isn’t just nice to get enough sleep. Your life expectancy depends on it. Go to bed!
- “Children and Sleep,” National Sleep Foundation.
- “Importance of Sleep,” Harvard Health, January 2006.
- “Sleep Tips: 7 Steps to Better Sleep,” Mayo Clinic.
- “Sleep Tips for Pregnant Women,” National Sleep Foundation.