Most of us don’t get enough sleep a day. Sleep is essential to the body and mind. If we don’t get enough of it, our mental and physical functions may become impaired. Sleep requirement is different in different stages of life. A one-year-old requires around 14 hours of sleep a day, a five-year-old needs about 12 hours of sleep, and an adult needs 7-8 hours of sleep. However, getting 7-8 hours of sleep is difficult for most of us. Between going to school/work, taking care of our children, preparing meals for our family, and taking care of the house, where are we going to find time for 7-8 hours of sleep?
Our body can repair itself if we get adequate sleep. Sleeping is the time when we can concentrate on fixing our body, processing information, unwinding our minds, and recharging our body’s energy. Our brain can process information from the previous day better. In fact, that is the reason why students who got a good night’s sleep perform better on exams than students who crammed all night. Inadequate sleep can contribute to making more mistakes and decreasing reaction time. People who do not get enough sleep tend to make more mistakes because their reaction time is a lot slower. Do you know that even a single sleepless night can lower your immune activity? If you get adequate amounts of sleep, then your body is better able to fight off infections and prevent diseases.
Effects if we go without sufficient sleep for several days in a row:
- Short-term memory
Sleep keeps cortisol in our brain balanced so our mind can process stressful things from our busy day. That’s why we’re less able to cope with stressors if we don’t get enough sleep. Cortisol is released more when you’re stressed, causing a state of inflammation, which then makes it more difficult to fall asleep! Elevated cortisol levels also causes increased fat storage and weight gain, decreased immunity, decreased muscle tone, etc.
Tips for getting enough sleep and reducing stress:
- Exercising is effective in reducing stress – get at least 30 minutes a day!
- Spend time with family and friends relaxing instead of worrying about work
- Listen to soothing music
- Make a schedule of your day, completing important tasks (ex: studying) earlier in the day so you have more time for relaxation.
- Taking a warm bath helps with relaxing!
Research Assistance provided by Rachel Yam