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The Importance of Sleep


The NY Times recently touted sleep to be the new status symbol. But getting enough sleep is not a luxury – it’s one of the most potent ingredients we have for living a healthy happy life and reaching our goals.

If you've ever been guilty of thinking "I'll sleep when I'm dead", or that "burning the midnight oil" is a badge-of-honor, I hear you. That used to be me too. Until I saw the light of day one too many times barely having slept a wink. Read on to discover what we now know about the magic of sleep and why I'll never again think of missing out on sleep as something the cool kids do.

This is Part One of 2-part series on sleep, in which we'll be looking at why sleep is important for adults, teens and children and what are the symptoms of having a lack of sleep.

The importance of Sleep for Adult

Sleep is one of nature's secret success weapons and when we get enough, it acts like a magic tonic in the way it affects how we feel on a cellular, physical, mental and emotional level.

The Benefits of Good Sleep:

•    repairs and resets our body and health in general
•    boosts our energy
•    sharpens our mind
•    boosts mental performance and brings creative solutions
•    helps with weight control
•    refreshes our emotional state and reduces the risk of depression

Sleep Resets the Body and Keeps Our Health In Check

At a very basic level getting enough sleep is what keeps us on top of our game and the cold and flu symptoms away. Research shows that people who sleep less than seven hours a night are nearly three times more likely to catch a cold as people who get at least eight.

However, colds are one thing. There's also a link between insufficient sleep and very severe health problems, such as:
•    heart disease
•    heart attacks
•    diabetes, and
•    obesity

Getting enough sleep also means a better sex life - I mean, just how unsexy is having to say "Not tonight, Babe, I'm just too tired"? Eek!

Sleep is also a natural pain killer and might just keep you safer too, as sleeplessness affects our decision making processes and reaction times.

Sleep Keeps Our Mind Sharp & Boost Mental Performance

Not only does a lack of sleep make us feel more than a little fatigued, but it also:
•    impairs our mental performance
•    creates an inability to focus and
•    slows our reaction times

In fact, surviving on just six hours of sleep a night can reduce the way we function to that of someone legally drunk.

Getting enough sleep is the first and most important step in staying alert, energized, and focused for the rest of the day.

Sleep is also the time when our minds integrate new information learned during the day and strengthen our memories. So that new thing you’re trying to learn - whether it’s a new language, business or life skill - you're more likely to remember and execute it well after a good night's sleep.

Sleep Helps Keep Our Weight Under Control

This is a biggie, and the reason is two-fold:
1) Behavioral - lack of sleep stamps its ugly feet all over our willpower, meaning we're less likely to stick with our healthy meal choices or go workout if we're tired.

2) Physiological - when we're sleep deprived certain hormones increase in the blood, driving appetite up, while other hormones drop. And wouldn't you know it, they're the ones that help us register when we're full.

When we're tired we're just plain hungrier, and of course, it's usually not for a quinoa salad - it's for that greasy burger and the double portion of fries!

Sleep Keeps Us Feeling Emotionally Upbeat and Less Likely To Suffer From Depression

Is it just me or are you also more likely to snap at your kids/partner/boss, or start laughing uncontrollably immediately before bursting into tears, when you're exhausted? ;-)

Yep, nothing makes us feel more irritable or moodier like missing sleep.

On the other hand, getting enough sleep hits a magic reset button on our bodies, reduces stress chemicals in the brain and dials back that part of the brain processing emotions.

We're simply more emotionally stable with good sleep, and more likely to prevent depression when we ensure we get the right amount of sleep for us - something between 7 and 9 hours each night, regularly, at roughly the same time each night.

Think you're not getting enough ZZZ'z?

Here's What a Lack of Sleep Looks and Feels like:

•    wanting to fuel yourself on caffeine or sports drinks
•    crashing mid-afternoon
•    trouble concentrating and forgetfulness
•    poor reaction times
•    low energy
•    brain Fog
•    irritability/moodiness/depressed mood
•    inability to perform certain tasks/poor job performance
•    fatigue
•    anxious or restless thoughts at night
•    tossing and turning
•    trouble waking up

While getting enough sleep is essential for us as adults, it's even more so for our children.  Here are some age-specific reasons why Vitamin Z is particularly important for Teens and Young Children.

The Importance of Sleep for Young Children

Pediatric research confirms that sleep directly affects a child's:
•    brain development, learning and attention issues
•    mood and behavior
•    weight
•    risk of developing childhood diabetes

In fact, sleep is as important for little humans as the food they eat and the exercise they get. Sleep is when their bodies literally grow and repackage neurotransmitters that help their brain cells communicate in the way they need to.

Wondering if your little one may be suffering from a lack of sleep? Here’s what to look out for.

Lack of Sleep Symptoms in Young Children:

•    excessive daytime sleepiness/falling asleep at inappropriate times
•    trouble sleeping at night (not able to get to sleep or has trouble staying asleep)
•    nightmares or night terrors
•    sleepwalking
•    bed Wetting
•    wakes up groggy/needs to be woken several times in the morning
•    fidgety/hyperactive behavior during the day
•    lacks interest, alertness, motivation, and/or an attention span
•    has academic struggles
•    whingey in the later afternoon

The Importance of Sleep for Teens

Ever wonder why teens bounce around later in the day and evening, but can barely muster a "good morning"?

Interestingly teenagers experience a biological shift during adolescence, which has their bodies wired to come to life only later in the day. And frustratingly not want to get started on homework before their parents are ready for bed - yep, seems like they truly can't help it.

While sleep is incredibly important for younger children, sleep is like liquid gold for powering the teenage brain and its development.

It's particularly so for the brain’s pre-frontal cortex -- responsible for complex thinking, decision making, and regulating emotions -- as it's among the last areas of the brain to develop, and does most of its maturing during our teenage years.

Teens who are sleep deprived are more likely to suffer from and display the following:

Lack of Sleep Symptoms in Teens

Cognitive issues
•    memory and learning difficulties
•    diminished focus, attention, and ability to problem solve
•    poor judgment and decision making

Behavioral and social issues
•    higher tendency to engage in risky behaviors, including smoking, drinking, and drug use
•    hyperactivity
•    aggressiveness
•    social withdrawal and/or difficulty getting along with others

Emotional issues
•    irritability and moodiness
•    negative attitude and outlook on life
•    difficulty controlling their emotions
•    higher risk for depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts

Academic and performance issues
•    lower grades
•    poor academic performance
•    chronically late

Now we have a good understanding of why sleep is so important, stay tuned for Part 2 of this Sleep Series in which I'll cover just how much sleep we need at different ages, and HOW to get the sleep we need as adults, teens, and kids.

Remember, life not only feels easier to handle after a good night's sleep, it's also a foundational building block that when turned into a consistent habit, sets you up to smash your goals and live a life you love!