Why is it the older we get the more we crave sleep? And the younger we are the more we think we can get away with little of it? The truth is that sleep is essential to our well being, it allows our body to refuel each day. A lack of sleep is cumulative. One night will not make up for several weeks of inadequate sleep, yet we seem to think that is the case. Just think about how much teenagers sleep.
It’s probably no surprise that a chronic lack of sleep has a severe impact on a person’s health. It has been increasingly documented that not getting enough sleep contributes to an increased risk of hypertension, diabetes, obesity, depression, heart attack, and stroke. But why is this the case? While we are asleep our body has the opportunity to perform necessary repairs that can only happen when the body is quiet. This occurs in our digestive, respiratory, central nervous, immune and cardiovascular systems. Sleep allows our body:
- to rest the neurons in our brain so that new pathways can be built.
- to build up our immune system defenses to keep us healthy.
- to prevent respiratory illnesses like a cold and the flu.
- to prevent weight gain.
- to control our appetite.
- to repair itself.
Now, what about teenagers? Studies are showing that teenagers are more at risk for chronic sleep deprivation. It is not surprising that teenagers are typically sleep deprived, especially during the school year. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recently published a study that indicates teens who get less than 7 hours of sleep a night are more prone to dangerous behaviors. These behaviors include texting and driving, drinking and driving, riding with someone who has been drinking, or not wearing a seat belt. This is all compared to a teen who gets 9 or more hours of sleep a night.
Encourage enough sleep in your home. Consistency is key. Maintain a routine for bedtime. Be careful with napping, as 20-30 minutes is the ideal, otherwise one might have trouble falling asleep later. Get plenty of exercise each day. 30-60 minutes is a good range. Make healthy food choices. And, lastly, make sure that the bedroom is quiet, dark, and comfortable.