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Is your family getting enough sleep?



Sleep was long considered just a block of time when you are not awake. But sleep studies have shown that our sleep has distinctive stages that cycle throughout the night.  How well rested we are and how well we function depends not just on total sleep time but on how much time is spent in each of the various stages of sleep. Without enough sleep, it is difficult to focus, pay attention, or respond quickly. Lack of sleep can cause mood problems; a chronic lack of sleep increases the risk for developing obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and infections.

What happens during sleep to improve our learning, memory and insight? Experts don’t really know, but suspect that we form or reinforce the pathways of brain cells needed to perform these tasks. Sleep is also necessary for those pathways to work up to speed; a lack of sleep can make us sluggish, irritable and slow to react.

Sleep gives your heart and cardiovascular system time to rest. During sleep, our heart rate and blood pressure drop by about 10%. Without adequate sleep, this nightly dip in blood pressure may not occur. If this nightly dip in blood pressure doesn’t occur, you are more likely to experience strokes, chest pain, irregular heartbeat and heart attacks.

Deep sleep triggers more release of growth hormone which fuels growth in children and boosts muscle mass  and the repair of cells and tissue in children and adults. Getting enough sleep also helps you avoid illness and speeds recovery time when you are sick. During sleep, your body creates more cellular hormones (cytokines) to help your immune system. Lack of sleep can reduce your ability to fight common infections. Many of the hormones released during sleep control the body’s use of energy. Evidence is growing that sleep is a powerful regulator of appetite, energy use, and weight control.

How much sleep is enough? Sleep needs vary from person to person but most adults sleep an average of 8 to 8.5 hours per night.  Newborns sleep between 16-18 hours per day. Preschool children sleep 10 to 12 hours/day. School age children and adolescents need at least 9 hours of sleep each night.


Source material:  “Hands-on Health” Health Wave Newsletter, September 2011