The Importance of Sleep

By: ISABELLA CHECHELE

learning-while-sleeping-neuroscience-shutterstock-686222875-1068x601.png (1068×601)

Sleep. We don’t get enough of it. But I’m here to remind you of why we should, and how we can do so.

Depending on what age group you fit into, you may need more or less sleep than others. Here are the recommended hours of sleep per age group, courtesy of the National Sleep Foundation: 

Age GroupAge RangeRecommended Amount of Sleep per Day
Newborn0-3 months14-17 hours
Infant4-11 months12-15 hours
Toddler1-2 years11-14 hours
Preschool3-5 years10-13 hours
School-age6-13 years9-11 hours
Teen14-17 years8-10 hours
Young Adult18-25 years7-9 hours
Adult26-64 years7-9 hours
Older Adult65 years or older7-8 hours

Take a look at your age group’s recommendation,  can you say with confidence that you really get that much sleep on a daily basis? If so, congratulations! Good job on out-sleeping the rest of us, and keep on doing so. But if you’re like me and many others, you struggle with going to bed at a decent hour. We regularly avoid getting sleep, even when we don’t mean to; when was the last time you said “Ok, tonight I’m going to bed at 11, I swear” only to look up at the clock moments later and see that it’s 2am? Chances are it wasn’t that long ago.

Still, we know that a lack of sleep isn’t good for us. But the health hazards of sleep deprivation are more than just constant yawning and feeling tired. Exhaustion can do much more, both to your physical and mental wellbeing. These effects include:

  •  Memory issues, both short and long-term
  • Mood changes, increased levels of emotion, & quicker temper, which can build into anxiety and/or depression
  • Increased risk for high blood pressure
  • Increased risk for obesity
  • Weakening your immune system

So how can we change our sleeping habits? These are a few things that can help you improve if practiced over time:

  • During the day, spend more time in environments with sunlight or bright lights. Increased exposure to bright light helps maintain your body’s circadian rhythm and improves your sleep-wake cycle.
  • On that note, decrease the brightness of your environment shortly before going to bed; this has the effect of making your brain think it’s time to sleep.
  • Listen to something calming in the background while you fall asleep, such as white noise (fans are a great option).
  • Try and set a consistent time for waking up each day. This may already be a given factor if you have a strict work/school schedule and need to wake up early in the morning, but even a half hour more or less of sleep can make a difference.

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