Why Do We Need to Sleep?

The Importance of Sleep

woman sleepingAll mammals need to sleep due to their brain’s structure. The cortex, where all complex thinking takes place, must have a “daily reset” to organize and categorize daily impressions, ideas and thinking structures.

Human beings are not different in that sense. Sleep is essential for maintaining our learning capabilities and memory, and mental and physical wellbeing.  Experts recommend a full 7 hours of sleep per 24 hours for adults at the age of 18-64. When it comes to children, the number increases. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommends 12-16 hours of sleep to babies at the age of 4-12 months. Toddlers at 1-2 years old need 11-14 hours. Young children aging 3 – 5, should sleep 10-13 hours a day. 6-12-year old children must sleep no less that 9-12 hours. 13-18-year old teens need 8-10 hours of a good night sleep.

What happens when you sleep less than you need? Children who chronically lack sleeping hours may suffer from a variety of mental and physiological syndroms including hypertension, obesity, diabetes, and depression. They will find it hard to concentrate in school. Their cognitive skills will be damages and they may have behavioral problems. Lack of sleep among teenagers may lead to increased risk of self-harm, depression and even suicidal thoughts.

sleep we need

Adults who don’t sleep enough are at higher risk of suffering from one or more of the following:

1) Cancer- In a study published in the American Journal of Cancer Research, it was found that among mice treated with cancer cell proliferation, those who slept better fought cancer more effectively in the early stages of the disease than those who did not sleep well. The findings were found to be particularly accurate for breast cancer and prostate cancer.

2) Gaining weight – Many studies suggest there is a direct link between weight problems and lack of sleep. Fatigue causes people to be hungrier simply by staying longer awake and enjoying nightly snacks. In addition, fatigue causes people to engage less in physical exercise that burns calories and helps lose weight.

3) Weakening of the immune system and susceptibility to diseases – Lack of rest impair our immune system and makes us more vulnerable to bacterial and viral infections.

4) Emotional and mental instability – One of the common side effects of chronic sleep deprivation is the development of depression and various other mental health related illnesses. People who sleep less than they need will have lower emotional intelligence. They will find it difficult to connect empathize with others, including family members, friends and co-workers.

5) Diabetes – A study carried out by the University of Chicago in 2008 showed that sleep deprivation increases the body’s resistance to insulin, which may cause diabetes even at an early age.

Recommended reading:

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