More and more studies show that adequate sleep is not only important for children, but for adults as well. Not getting enough shut eye decreases concentration, causes weight gain, and increases your chances of depression, schizophrenia, Alzheimer’s disease and stroke. People with sleep abnormalities and disturbances are also more likely to have allergies, ear infections, hearing problems, and social issues such as aggression, anxiety and depression.
As reported by the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, a sleep study followed 8,000 adults over several years and tracked the subjects who slept less than seven hours a night. The study found that those who slept less were at greater risk of obesity and weight gain and the risk increased with every hour lost. In another study, it showed that those who slept less than seven hours consumed at least 500 more calories than those who slept seven or more hours. Those who slept less also ate more snacks and carbohydrates. The theory is that as sleep decreases, the body produces more ghrelin, a hormone that stimulates appetite.
Those all nighters we pulled in our college days were not good for us either. It actually hurts our efforts to concentrate and retain information and sleep deprivation impairs memory and judgment. According to Dr. Glenn D. Braunstein, M.D., Chairman of the Department of Medicine at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, during sleep the brain processes events and experiences during the day. Dr. Braunstein says, “The sleep process helps reinforce the understanding of tasks and content, and strengthens the ability to comprehend and remember experiences.”
Dr. Braunstein has also found that sleep helps the brain organize memories, understand experiences, and integrates information acquired during the day but didn’t have time to process. “It has a tremendous impact on a person’s ability to cope,” comments Dr. Braunstein. “This is especially relevant to the sleep requirements of children and their emotional development.” A Northwestern University study of 500 preschoolers found that children who slept less than 10 hours a day were more likely to misbehave, and were at a greater risk for acting out behavioral problems.
According to Dr. Braunstein, as a general rule, infants need 16 hours of sleep; babies and toddlers need 10-14 hours; children age 3-6 need 10-12 hours; kids age 6-9 need 10 hours; kids age 9-12 need 9 hours; teenagers need about 9 hours; and adults should aim for 7-8 hours. However, Dr. Braunstein says sleep is “as individual as snowflakes,” meaning that you need to sleep as much as our own personal physiologic makeup dictates.
The National Geographic Channel recently aired a special on Fatal Familial Insomnia (FFI). FFI is a deadly form of insomnia that runs in some families. While extremely rare, (there are only 40 families in the world that have the condition), it shows how important sleep is to our well-being. This tragic illness also proves how severe sleep deprivation can be on the human body.
So before you go for a period of time without quality sleep, remember the consequences. You need to let your body recoup and regenerate itself properly to be health and happy.