You’ve probably heard that sleep is an important part of your health. But you might not know just how true that is. Lack of sleep can greatly affect your physical and mental health in more ways than one. Every night, millions of people suffer from insomnia. They struggle to fall asleep and stay asleep, which in turn effects their quality of life. Sleep plays such a vital role in your health and well-being that without it, your mental health, physical health and even your safety are affected.
Why Is Sleep So Important?
The way you feel and function when you’re awake is dependent on how you sleep. During sleep, the body works to support healthy brain function and maintain physical health by repairing and rejuvenating. Sleep deficiency can raise your risk for chronic health problems. It can also greatly affect the way you think, act, work and get along with others. While you’re asleep, your brain prepares for the next day. It forms pathways to help you learn and remember new information. When you’re sleep deficient, your brain suffers. You may have trouble making decisions, solving problems, controlling your emotions and behavior, and processing change.
Just about every part of the body needs sleep to function properly. Sleep helps maintain a healthy balance of hormones in the body. If the body lacks sleep, your hormones can be thrown off balance. The immune system also relies heavily on sleep. Constant sleep deficiency can change the way your immune system responds to illness and infections. If you’re sleep deficient, you may have trouble fighting common infections.
After just a few nights of losing sleep, your ability to function suffers. You might begin to have trouble with your memory and learning skills. You may feel drowsy and unable to work or dive. Studies have shown that sleep deficiency harms your driving ability just as much as, if not more, than being drunk. It’s estimated that sleep deficiency is a factor in about 100,000 car accidents each year. The result is about 1,500 deaths yearly.
The Link Between Sleep and Depression
Sleep deficiency is linked to depression, suicide and risky behavior. Insomnia is often a characteristic when diagnosing depression. Being unable to maintain a healthy sleep pattern can be a huge factor in the onset of depression. Without sleep, you may begin to feel angry and impulsive. You may experience mood swings, have trouble paying attention and experience a lack of motivation.
So How Much Sleep Do You Need?
According to the National Sleep Foundation, different age groups have different sleep recommendations. The average adult needs 7-9 hours of sleep each night to promote a healthy mind and body, and to prevent symptoms of depression. For a better night’s rest, limit the use of caffeine, alcohol or nicotine before bed. Shut down any electronics at least an hour before bedtime to give your brain a rest, and make sure your room is cool and dark.
Here’s the sleep recommendations by age:
- Newborns 14-17 hours
- Infants 12-15 hours
- Toddlers 11-14 hours
- Preschoolers 10-13 hours
- School aged children 9-11 hours
- Teens 8-10 hours
- Young Adults 7-9 hours
- Adults 7-9 hours
- Seniors 7-8 hours