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Why sleep is important

Why sleep is important
08 January

Sleep. Something we all dream about getting more of! 

The body's rest cycle used to be thought of as a time when the body simply closed off, shut down and on waking, resumed its activities. However, we are all more aware these days of the importance of quality sleep for both our overall health and ongoing well-being. We now know that whilst we are sleeping our bodies go through vital processes that help to rejuvenate our health.   Our brain does not shut down during sleep but remains active as it supports all the varying roles needed to deliver the quality sleep we need on a regular basis. During sleep our brains work hard by restoring cells and repairing muscles as well as processing new information. As we sleep our body conserves energy by lowering body temperature, heart rate and breathing. 

Sleep gives our bodies the opportunity to recover from life’s daily grind and is as important to us as food and water. We spend approximately a third of our lives sleeping, or at least trying to! With longer working hours, shift work and the around the clock availability of numerous activities many people are getting less sleep than they need with the knock on effects of poor concentration, irritability or even depression. Circumstances of life may sometimes mean we find our sleep less than it should be either in length or quality. Short term disturbances are normal but should our sleep deprivation become more than an occasional nuisance then it could be time to consult a doctor.   

REM(rapid eye movement) and NREM (non rapid eye movement) are the two main phases of our sleep. We spend less time in REM and this is the period of our sleeping where dreams will occur. We cycle through the REM and NREM phases throughout the night with the NREM phases becoming longer and deeper each time as we move towards the morning, 

Most adults find they need around 7-9 hours of sleep a night though as we age our sleep tends to become lighter and shorter and we may find ourselves waking more during the night.  A baby can sleep for 16 or more hours a day whilst older children and teenagers may need about 9.5 hours of sleep per night.