Deborah Kris had an article in The Washington Post last week on the importance for teens to get enough sleep. The thing is, sleep isn’t just important for teens! More and more research is being done on the impact of sleep deprivation across all age categories.
We’ve all experienced periodic lack of sleep and you know the feeling.
- Your cognitive functioning is impaired.
- It’s hard to focus, to concentrate.
- Your body feels heavy, achey, and clumsy.
- You feel grumpy and might have head spins and negative thoughts.
- You feel more sensitive and impatient.
One teen in a recent study summed it up beautifully: “When I don’t get enough sleep, everything is harder.”
What we don’t always think about are the long-term impacts of lack of sleep which can include an increased risk of depression and difficulty regulating your emotions. You can get by with a little less sleep but eventually, it is going to catch up with your overall health – including brain functions. And how are you going to get to your best work if you’re not feeling well!
Why is sleep so important?
We learn when we dream
When you sleep each night, you process what you learned during the day. Your brain reviews the intake for the day and links that to what you already know. And new subject matter is filed away which strengthens your neural pathways and helps you retain what you’ve learned. In a study at Harvard Medical School, researchers asked college students to solve a challenging computer maze. After they’d worked on it for a while, they took a nap. “Students who dreamed about the maze showed a marked improvement in their ability to solve it.” Even if you don’t remember your dreams, you can still benefit from them.
Sleep cleans up your brain
Sleep is the time for your brain to straighten up, declutter, and get organized which allows room for new learning. Information you learned during the day that you don’t need to remember gets tossed. And your brain flushes out toxins that accumulate during the day.
Sleep improves your performance
Sleep improves recall and helps you with problem-solving no matter what type of work you do.
Sleep helps you stay emotionally regulated
The amygdala is at the center of your brain and controls emotional responses like fear, anger, and anxiety. Without enough sleep, your amygdala stresses out and emotions can seem overwhelming when hit with outside stimuli.
Sleep improves your health and athletic performance
Sleep helps boost your immune system and makes you less susceptible to catching colds. It improves reaction time for athletes and helps reduce injury rates. A study that just came out focuses on the best times to boost your immune system. And guess what? It’s a night.
What are some baby steps you can take to get more sleep?
- Establish a sleep routine by going to bed at a consistent time.
- Stay away from blue light (screens!) before bed so your melatonin can kick in. You want to be off screens at least 30 minutes before bed. And boot them out of your bedroom.
- Caffeine takes about 6 hours to stop activating adrenaline – so try to limit that to mornings only. If you need caffeine to function throughout the day, that’s a sure sign you need more sleep!
- Calm your brain with meditation or a calming book before bed. It can also help to clear your mind by writing down thoughts about what has to happen the next day. This helps you set thoughts aside until morning. And what you write might be great fodder for your brain to dream on.
- Exercise during the day will help improve the depth and quality of your sleep.
- Clear the room at night of distractions – including tv, kids, and pets in the bed!
- Block the light with heavy curtains or by draping something over your eyes.
- Use earplugs if others in your house or apartment are active after you’ve gone to bed.
- Love your pillow and bedding; be bed linen picky – not too hot and not too cold.
Here’s a link to the full article in the Washington Post.
Sending you wishes for happy dreaming this week!!
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