To his teachers, 16-year-old Billy, is the student most likely to fall asleep in class.Â After all, his school day is followed by a grueling basketball practice then three hours behind a fast food counter.Â Following that, thereâ€™s homework, late night phone chats with his girlfriend, and catching up on MTV.Â When Billyâ€™s head finally hits the pillow, his mind is still racing with thoughts about everything from tomorrowâ€™s history test to the latest outbreak of zits.Â Then, just when it seems like heâ€™s finally settled into a cozy sleep, his alarm clock rings, and itâ€™s time to do it all over again. Sound vaguely familiar?
Billyâ€™s case is not unusual.Â Almost all of us can relate to the busy, no time for sleep schedule that has become the norm in society, but few of us realize that healthy sleep is one of the key ingredients to a happy, healthy life.Â Websterâ€™s Dictionary defines sleep as:
â€œthat well known state in which there is a suspension in the voluntary exercise of the powers of the body and mind, and which is periodically necessary to bodily health.â€
Sleep is necessary to bodily health, even ol’ Webster knows that.Â Everyone knows that, it’s nothing new.Â But sleep still seems to be taken for granted.Â Everyone sleeps.Â But hardly anyone knows the importance of sleep, the functions of sleep, and the effects that not enough sleep has on a person.
The importance of sleep should be obvious; you donâ€™t sleep, you donâ€™t live.Â Everyone knows that sleep is crucial to existence.Â The keyword is existence.Â The average American goes through life existing.Â But an adult that actually gets enough sleep will not just exist, but also thrive.
What happens when you don’t get enough sleep?
On average, adults require between 7-9 hours of sleep per night.Â For those who’re over the age of 60, six hours is adequate, since we actually require less sleep as we age.Â Not getting enough zzzâ€™z may lead to a multitude of things.Â Reduced energy levels, irritability, disorientation, dark circles under the eyes, and fatigue are just a few.Â The bodyâ€™s immune system also suffers from a lack of sleep.Â A person with inadequate sleep is more likely to catch colds, and the flu.Â But thatâ€™s not all, an estimated 200,000 auto accidents a year are caused by sleepy drivers.
If falling asleep at the wheel or being just plain drowsy and possibly killing you and someone else isnâ€™t enough, then there is an advantage to getting enough shuteye financially too.Â Sleep deprivation costs Americans more than $100 billion annually in lost productivity, medical expenses, sick leave, and property and environmental damage.Â Which means the person that takes time to sleep is better off financially.Â The importance of sleep is clearly shown.Â Not enough sleep equals grumpy, sick, dead or injured, and financially disabled people.
Furthermore, the functions of sleep are also something that is overlooked by the general population.Â Contrary to popular opinion, the function of sleep is not to prevent sleepiness any more than the function of eating is to prevent hunger.Â The functions of sleep, in spite of a century of scientific study, remains a biological mystery.Â Scientists do have theories to the functions of sleep however.
Theories about why we need sleep?
The first theory involves the importance of Restoration and Recovery.Â This hypothesis is that sleep serves to reverse and/or restore biochemical and physiological processes that are progressively degraded during prior wakefulness.Â This theory is the most popular or the most widely accepted.Â There are elements that donâ€™t go parallel with this theory though.Â One is physically fit individuals do not have longer sleep durations than the unfit.Â According to this theory, however, someone who exercised regularly would need more Restoration and Recovery sleep than someone who didnâ€™t exercise, which isnâ€™t true.
Editor’s note:Â I disagree with Sam about his suggestion that athletes or those who exercise regularly not need more sleep.Â Research often suggests that more sleep can improve athletic performance.
The second theory is Energy Conservation.Â According to this theory, sleep serves to reduce metabolic or fat burning rates while asleep.Â Or in other words, sleep conserves energy â€“fat- which makes individuals able to perform their daily tasks.Â Although scientist arenâ€™t completely sure which theory is correct, they do know that functions such as brain growth, consolidation of memory, removal of non relevant memories, and discharges of emotions, do occur while asleep. Although the scientific functions of sleep are not apparent, the physical ones are, without sleep one cannot survive.
Also, the effects on a person without enough sleep can be astronomical. Lost sleep adds up.Â Experts say loss of sleep is cumulative, creating a sleep debt.Â One hour of sleep loss every night for a week is the equivalent of staying up for an all-nighter.Â That all-nighter of lost sleep can cause a serious auto accident.Â In fact, over 200,000 sleep deprived related accidents occur a year.Â That all-nighter can also cost an individual massive amounts of money in lost productivity, medical expenses, sick leaves, and property and environmental damages.Â But worst of all, that all-nighter can also be devastating to one’s health.
Research suggests that inadequate sleep can have serious long-term effects:
It is estimated that 50 to 70 million Americans chronically suffer from a disorder of sleep and wakefulness, hindering daily functioning and adversely affecting health and longevity. The cumulative long-term effects of sleep deprivation and sleep disorders have been associated with a wide range of deleterious health consequences including an increased risk of hypertension, diabetes, obesity, depression, heart attack, and stroke.
There are also short-term effects that will occur after a night without enough sleep.Â Some of these include; reduced energy levels, irritability, cognitive decline, disorientation, dark circles under the eyes, and fatigue to name a few.Â Growth hormone release also declines during periods of inadequate sleep. No matter if the effects are short or long term, not getting enough sleep can mean not living life to the fullest.
- Adequate sleep is essential for maintaining a healthy mind and body.
- Ensure that you regularly get enough sleep to maintain your health, drive safely and for your ultimate financial well-being too.