About how and why it is essential to maintain good

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about how and why it is essential to maintain good quality sleep throughout our lives, and on the problems that can arise during sleep. What is Sleep? Sleep is often seen as time when the body is inactive. In fact, the opposite is true. Sleep is an active, essential and involuntary process, without which we cannot function effectively. Sleep is not a lifestyle choice; just like breathing, eating or drinking, it is a necessity. Sleep is a complex process during which our body undertakes a number of essential activities. It involves low awareness of the outside world, relaxed muscles, and a raised anabolic state which helps us to build and repair our bodies. Primarily, sleep is for the brain, allowing it to recover and regenerate. During our sleep, the brain can process information, consolidate memory, and enable us to learn and function effectively during daytime 01 . This is why we are encouraged to get a good night’s sleep in the run up to a job interview or exam rather than staying awake all night to prepare. Whilst we sleep, our brain is not only strengthening memories but it is also reorganising them, picking out the emotional details and helping us produce new insights and creative ideas 02 . Sleep affects our ability to use language, sustain attention, understand what we are reading, and summarise what we are hearing 03 . If we compromise on our sleep, we compromise on our performance, our mood, and our interpersonal relationships. Sleep has also been shown to protect the immune system 04 . Animals have evolved to sleep in many different ways. Dolphins can sleep using only one half of their brain at a time. Even hibernating animals have been shown to temporarily cease hibernation, go to sleep (a different, active process), then return to hibernation 05 . Sleep is an inconvenient, time consuming process, but it is so essential that we have simply evolved to fit it into our lives.
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17 16 In humans, the amount of sleep a person needs depends upon their age. New born babies tend to sleep for an average of 16–18 hours per day, which decreases to about 13–14 hours after one year. Adolescents tend to require more sleep than adults, possibly due to the physiological changes that are happening in the body during this period. As the person reaches adulthood they tend to sleep 7–8 hours per day. Older adults tend to sleep roughly 6–7 hours per day 07 , but take more frequent naps throughout the day. The amount of time an average adult needs to sleep varies from person to person, and can range between 5 and 11 hours. Still, it is important for us to gauge the amount of sleep that we need and to ensure that we get the right amount. There is no set amount of sleep that is appropriate for everyone. For example, although Margaret Thatcher once said that she only needed five hours sleep a night when she was Prime Minister, this would have been unremarkable for her if she was naturally a short sleeper.
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  • Fall '19
  • Sleep Matters

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