We spend approximately a third of our lives sleeping because our bodies need sleep to function during waking hours. Although sleep is one of our basic daily needs, more than 60 percent of adults say their sleep needs are not being fully met during the week. Sleep, like nutrition and physical activity, is critical to our health. Sleep requirements vary from person to person. When determining our personal sleep needs, it is important to assess not only where we fall on the sleep spectrum, but also to examine what other factors are affecting the quality and quantity of sleep we need, such as a job or daily routine. In general, however, the National Institute of Health suggests the following sleep recommendations by age group:
|Age||Recommended Amount of Sleep per Night|
|Preschool-aged children||11-12 hours|
|School-aged children||At least 10 hours|
|Adults 18+ (including the elderly)||9-10 hours|
The Importance of a Good Night’s Sleep
It’s easy to think about sleep as a time when our body and brain temporarily shuts off. The truth is, however, during rest our brain is hard at work overseeing a wide variety of biological upkeep and preparing for the next day. More specifically, adequate sleep is necessary to:
- Stay Alert. Good sleep allows your mind to regain focus and tackle those tricky mental challenges. It can also stimulate creativity.
- Boost Memory. Sleeping is the most important time to shape memories and make the connections between events, feelings and experiences. In fact, sleep is a requirement to form new learning and memory pathways in the brain.
- Fight Infection. Sleep is your body’s mechanism to ward off infection. When you don’t get enough, your immune system is weaker, making you more susceptible to illness.
- Be Active. Energy levels after healthy sleep are higher, and your mental awareness is more acute. Good sleep is also tied to improved athletic performance, including greater speed, agility and reflexes.
- Replenish. During sleep, your body repairs the damage caused by stress, ultraviolet rays and other harmful exposure, as well as muscle injuries and other traumas.
When we don’t get enough sleep over time, not only do we lose out on the key benefits of sleep, but we also become more vulnerable to a number of short- and long-term health risks. Studies show that people who experience chronic sleep deprivation are at increased risk for:
- Automobile accidents due to drowsy driving
- Occupational injury due to excessive sleepiness and decreased alertness
- Obesity due to an increased appetite caused by sleep deprivation
- Psychiatric conditions such as depression and substance abuse
- Poorer quality of life