By Tanya Glover
Whether you realize it or not, sleep plays a very large role in our lives. In fact, at least 1/3 of our entire life is spent sleeping! When we are children we hate to do it and as adults we cannot get enough of it, but either way you look at it, sleep is something we must have. You may be surprised to learn what sleep does for our bodies and what the effects of not getting enough it can be.
The Importance of Sleep for Children
Children burn a lot of energy during the daytime hours. Their only real resting period (and yours!) is during slumber. It is recommended that school aged children should get between 10 and 12 hours of sleep each night to get the maximum benefits that sleep provides. But why is it so important to get enough sleep? What does it do?
· When you child is young, their brains are in developmental overload. Sleep helps to restore the brains functions in order for your child to be able to learn each day. It also gives their brains a rest from the flurry of activity it processes throughout the daytime hours.
· When a child does not get enough sleep it can lead to obesity. Sleep helps to keep hormones balanced and when you are not getting enough, these hormones have a harder time balancing out and in turn they do not properly regulate feelings of hunger. This can lead to overeating which is a major childhood issue right now.
· Lack of sleep in childhood has also been associated with ADHD and behavioral problems. When a child’s brain is not well rested they tend to act ways they are not even consciously aware of.
· For a child that stays overly tired, snoring can occur, even at very young ages. When infants snore it can delay their overall development.
· If your child experiences night terrors, you may want to evaluate the amount of sleep they are getting. Night terrors are made worse when a child is deprived of the proper amount of sleep.
· Lack of sleep can cause memory problems. This is because memory consolidation happens when you are asleep. When we do not get enough sleep this consolidation cannot occur and this can lead to short and long term memory loss.
· During the REM period of sleep, your child unlearns certain things. This is very important! Think of it like this. Your child has just learned how to ride a bike. The first 20 times that they tired, they fell off. However, the 21st time they mastered it! When they sleep they dump out the superfluous memories and keep the important learned lessons. This means that when the go to get on their bike they automatically do what they did on the 21st time, having unlearned how to fall off the bike! Sleep deprivation can make it to where these types of things are not unlearned and new skills may begin to slip away, only to have to be relearned all over again.
· Children who get enough sleep tend to perform better in all areas of their lives. Plus, having a child who gets enough sleep also gives you the chance to get the amount of sleep you need! It is a win-win situation!
The Importance of Sleep in Adults
Sleep is not just important for children. As adults, we still need enough sleep to function right and stay healthy. It is recommended that adults get at least 8 hours of sleep per night. Below you will find the top reasons why sleep plays an important part in our lives as well!
- Becoming sleep deprived can be very dangerous. It effects hand-eye coordination which is needed to do many tasks each day. Take driving for example. This requires good reaction time and attention span. When someone who has not had enough sleep gets behind the wheel it is as bad as if they are intoxicated. And speaking of intoxication, those who are not getting enough sleep and who drink get affected more quickly by the alcohol which can make for some dangerous situations.
- As we get older our memory begins to falter a bit. This is a natural part of aging but it is magnified 100% when you do not sleep enough.
- Adults who do not get enough sleep are moodier during the day and have a hard time concentrating at the tasks the need to accomplish. This can lead to damage of relationship and job loss.
- Studies have shown that adults who do not get the proper amount of sleep have a lower immune system. This is because the body is not being given enough time to rest and restore itself before being slung back into motion.
- Studies have also shown that adults who do not sleep enough are more likely to have irregular heartbeats, high blood pressure and increased levels of stress.
- Finally and maybe most importantly, getting enough sleep at night has been tied to helping people avoid cancer or fighting it off if it has already been diagnosed. Of course getting your rest will not cure cancer or stop it if it is going to infect you, but every little thing helps when it comes to this horrible illness so why not at least take it into consideration and get more sleep just in case?
Go to Bed! Why? Because I Said So!
No matter how young or old you are, it is a proven fact that your overall wellbeing and health is effected by how much sleep you get at night. Millions of people suffer from sleep deprivation. Some people do not get enough sleep because of stress in their lives or other things that keep them awake and worrying. For some it is due to insomnia, which is a curable disorder. Others just shirk sleep because they have so much to do (like me for instance!) No matter what the reason, the bottom line is that sleep is essential for keeping us happy and healthy. So, even though it may be difficult to get into the habit of going to bed earlier, it is something that your body will thank you for in a million and one ways! Now it is time for me to get some rest, so good night everyone!
Christie Hunter is registered clinical counselor in British Columbia and co-founder of Theravive. She is a certified management accountant. She has a masters of arts in counseling psychology from Liberty University with specialty in marriage and family and a post-graduate specialty in trauma resolution. In 2007 she started Theravive with her husband in order to help make mental health care easily attainable and nonthreatening. She has a passion for gifted children and their education. You can reach Christie at 360-350-8627 or write her at christie - at - theravive.com.