Why Is Sleep Important?
Sleep plays a vital role in good health and well-being throughout your life. Getting enough quality sleep at the right times can help protect your mental health, physical health, quality of life, and safety.
The way you feel while you’re awake depends in part on what happens while you’re sleeping. During sleep, your body is working to support healthy brain function and maintain your physical health. In children and teens, sleep also helps support growth and development.
The damage from sleep deficiency can occur in an instant (such as a car crash), or it can harm you over time. For example, ongoing sleep deficiency can raise your risk for some chronic health problems. It also can affect how well you think, react, work, learn, and get along with others.
Reasons why a good night’s sleep is so important.
- Sleep is restorative for the brain.
- Too little sleep can lead to weight gain by altering levels of the hormones that regulate satiety and hunger, leading to overeating, overweight, and obesity.
- Growth hormone is secreted during slow wave sleep.
- Insufficient sleep is associated with a higher incidence of behavioral problems, especially attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
- Sleep disruption caused by snoring in infants delays their development.
- Night terrors and confusional arousals are often made worse by sleep deprivation.
- Memory consolidation occurs during slow wave sleep, meaning that the different pieces of what we’ve learned during the day come together coherently so that the knowledge can be accessed when needed.
- Rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, the stage of sleep when the most vivid dreams are dreamt, is important for the “unlearning” of superfluous memories. For example, when a child learns how to ride a bike and falls off the first ten times, finally successful on the eleventh try, the memory of how to perform the task so as to stay on the bike is the one which is important to retain, not the ones of how to fall off. Unlearning removes the unhelpful “how to” memories of how to fall of the bike, so that the next day when the child hops on it, she will automatically re-enact what she did that eleventh time, and not the first ten.
- School performance improves in kids with poor sleep because of obstructive sleep apnea after it has been treated.
- Studies using MR spectroscopy to compare healthy children to those with long-standing obstructive sleep apnea have shown that those with the sleep apnea have certain, specific patterns of brain injury not seen in the healthy kids.
- When kids sleep well, their parents’ sleep improves, too, doing wonders for their ability to function during the day (and maintain their sanity in the evening and night). This may be last on this list, but certainly not least!