How much sleep we all need different amounts of sleep

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How Much Sleep? We all need different amounts of sleep. Different species of animals require vastly different amounts, as shown in the estimated average sleep times of several species 06 :
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19 18 Serotonin is another chemical that affects sleep; produced by the brain, insufficient levels of serotonin are also related to mental health problems such as depression and anxiety. Levels of serotonin are highest in the brain when we are awake and active, and the brain produces more serotonin when it is lighter outside. This is why most people feel tired at night-time, and why it is a good idea to turn off the lights when we are trying to sleep. The immune system also influences serotonin, and therefore influences sleep patterns 12 , which may explain why we need to sleep more if we are feeling ill. As humans are mainly daytime animals, the period we choose to sleep is determined naturally by the level of light in the environment; principally due to the setting and rising of the sun. But we can now manipulate light levels through the use of artificial lights, which means that we can continue activities long into the evenings. People who work nightshifts may wish to reduce the level of light they are exposed to during the daytime in order to sleep, and can do this through the use of blackout curtains. The story of the Copiapó mining accident in Chile in 2010 shows the importance of light for circadian rhythms. Miners’ sleep-wake cycles were completely disrupted in the absence of sunlight. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) consultants advised the miners to segregate their space into working, sleeping, and recreation areas. They used the lights on their helmets and the headlights on the mining trucks to create a communal ‘light’ area. The sleeping area was kept dark, meaning that the miners could regulate the daylight cycle artificially and maintain a regular pattern of sleep. This is an extreme example, but in fact, even moderate changes in lighting can affect our internal circadian timers 13 . Sleep patterns vary greatly, some animals are diurnal and tend to sleep during the night time, and others are nocturnal and sleep mostly during the daytime. Within humans, each person’s circadian timer is set slightly differently; some people function best in the mornings (larks), others best in the evenings (owls), many of us are somewhere in between. Some people suffer from what is known as circadian rhythm sleep disorder, which is an extreme end of this spectrum, but is often associated with mental health problems. An extreme ‘owl’ may have delayed sleep phase syndrome, tending to fall asleep and wake up very late. An extreme ‘lark’ may have advanced sleep phase syndrome, rising very early in the morning but plagued with sleepiness in the evening. These irregularities can become problems, depending upon what we are trying to do in life, although for some they can prove to be an asset.
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  • Sleep Matters

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