Sleep is nourishment for our brain. While resting, important body functions and brain activity occur. Sleep plays a vital role in our health and well being throughout our lives. Getting enough quality rest at the right time can help to protect our mental, physical health and quality of life. The way we feel when we’re awake depends on what happens while we’re sleeping. During sleep, our bodies are working to support healthy brain function and maintain our physical health. In children and teens, sleep helps support growth and development. Findings show that a good night’s sleep improves learning. Sleep helps us pay attention, make decisions, and be creative. Whether we’re learning math, how to play chess, how to code, or how to ride a bike, sleep helps enhance our learning and problem solving skills.
Sleep deficiency alters activity in some parts of the brain. When we’re sleeping deficient, we may have trouble making decisions, solving problems, controlling our emotions and behavior, and managing change. Sleep deficiency also has been linked to depression and risk-taking behavior. Getting enough quality sleep at the right time helps us function clearly throughout the day. People who are sleeping deficient are less productive at work and school. They take longer to finish tasks, have a slower reaction time, and make more mistakes. Sleeping when our body is ready to rest is very important. Sleep deficiency can affect us even when we sleep the total number of hours recommended. The total recommend hours of rest for teens is 9 to10 hours, while for adults and the elderly it’s an average of 7 to 8.
When we routinely lose sleep or choose to sleep less than needed, that sleep loss adds up. The total sleep lost is called our sleep debt. When we lose 2 hours of sleep each night, we have a sleep debt of 14 hours after a week. After numerous nights of losing sleep, even a loss of just 1–2 hours per night, our ability to function suffers as if we haven’t slept for a day or two. Some of us sleep more on our days off than on workdays. We also may go to bed later and get up later on days off. Sleeping more on days off might be a sign that we’re not getting enough sleep. Although extra sleep on days off might help us feel better, it can also disrupt our body’s sleep/wake rhythm. Some of us have schedules that conflict with our internal body clocks. For instance, shift workers and teens that have early school schedules may have trouble getting enough sleep. This can affect how they feel mentally, physically, and emotionally.
Lack of sleep can cause a number of problems. Most of us need seven to nine hours of sleep per day, and if we come up short, it can result in neurocognitive shortfalls (memory, concentration, creativity, attention) and cardio metabolic risks (heart disease, weight gain, diabetes). When we can’t get enough sleep at night, a nap can often be the perfect solution. Naps improve attentiveness, coordination and reflexes, which is why we feel revitalized after taking one. The length of our nap determines the benefits. A 20-minute snooze, or a stage two nap, is ideal to enhance motor skills and mental clarity, while an hour to 90 minutes of napping brings Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep, which helps us to make new connections in the brain and can aid in solving creative problems. As anyone who’s suffered from a sleepless night knows, it’s hard to be high-spirited the next day. Sneaking in a nap can help erase sleep-deprived irritability. A short snooze is a wiser choice than sipping mid day sweet tea or coffee if you need a mid-day reboot, since consuming caffeine in the afternoon or evening can negatively affect our nighttime slumber. Napping is a natural way to recover energy.
After working countless hours over the years to maintain our status as a premium contract food service provider, at Gourmet Services Inc. we understand that a brain that’s hungry for sleep will get it, even when we don’t expect it. Sleep helps our brainwork properly. While we’re sleeping, our brain is preparing for the next day. It’s forming new pathways to help us learn and remember information. We can take steps to improve our sleep habits. First, is making sure that we allow ourselves enough time to sleep. With enough sleep each night, we may find that we’re happier and more productive during the day. Sleep often is the first thing as busy people we squeeze out of our schedules. Making time to sleep and rest helps us to protect our health and well being now and in the future.