Sleep: How much you really need?

WHY sleep? At one time, a kid asked, “Why do we need to sleep?  Can we stay awake  all the time?”  Good questions. 

The thing is: “Sleep is a vital indicator of overall health and well-being,” the National satnitation foundation points out. “We spend up to one-third of our lives asleep, and the overall state of our ‘sleep health’ remains an essential question throughout our lifespan.”

The Healthy Sleep book gives some points on why sleep is very important: “The quality of sleep directly affects your mental and physical health and the quality of your waking life, including your productivity, emotional, balance, brain and heart health, immune system, creativity, vitality and even your weight. No other activity delivers so many benefits with so little effort!

“Sleep isn’t merely a time when your body shuts off. While you rest, your brain stays busy, overseeing biological maintenance that keeps your body running in top condition, preparing you for the day ahead. Without enough hours of restorative sleep, you won’t be able to work, learn, create and communicate at a level even close to your true potential. Regularly skimp on ‘service’ and you’re headed for a major mental and physical breakdown.”

Because sleep is very important, there are those who suffers from insomnia—having difficulty of falling asleep—doing “creative” ways to have a good night’s sleep. To German actress Marlene Dietrich, the only thing that can lull her to sleep was a sardine-and-onion sandwich on rye.

That’s according to the 1990’s edition of The Book of Lists. Here are more: French author Alexander Dumas was advised by his doctor to get out of bed when he couldn’t sleep. So, he started to take late-night strolls and eventually started to sleep through the night.

To cure his insomnia, American President Theodore Roosevelt drank cognac in a glass of milk. Whenever she stayed in a hotel, American poet Amy Lowell would rent five rooms—one to sleep in, and empty rooms above, below, and on either side—in order to guarantee quiet.

Myths and facts

Despite what science has discovered, there are still myths floating around. A few don’t believe them but a lot still accept them as the plain truth.  Here are some of those myths, according to the US National Institute of Health:

Myth: Getting just one hour less sleep per night won’t affect your daytime functioning.

Fact: You may not be noticeably sleepy during the day, but losing even one hour of sleep can affect your ability to think properly and respond quickly. It also compromises your cardiovascular health, energy balance, and ability to fight infections.

Myth: Your body adjusts quickly to different sleep schedules.

Fact: Most people can reset their biological clock, but only by appropriately timed cues—and even then, by one or two hours per day at best. Consequently, it can take more than a week to adjust after traveling across several time zones or switching to the night shift.

Myth: Extra sleep at night can cure you of problems with excessive daytime fatigue.

Fact: The quantity of sleep you get is important, sure, but it’s the quality of your sleep that you really have to pay attention to. Some people sleep eight or nine hours a night but don’t need feel well rested when they wake up because the quality of their sleep is poor.

Myth: You can wake up for lost sleep during the week by sleeping more on the weekends.

Fact: Although this sleeping pattern will help relieve part of sleep debt, it will not completely make up for the lack of sleep. Furthermore, sleeping later on the weekends can affect your sleep-wake cycle so that it is much harder to go to sleep at the right time on Sunday nights and get up early on Monday mornings.

American journalist Patrick Allan highlights the importance of sleep when he wrote: “Getting a good night’s rest isn’t always as easy as it feels like it should be, but it can be very important for your health, so make sure you’re getting the sleep you need.”

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