Each year in the U.S., Sleep Awareness Week occurs in the first week of March, when Daylight Saving Time begins and most Americans lose an hour of sleep. The observance is a national public education and awareness campaign to promote the importance of sleep to one’s physical health, mental health and overall well-being. With lots to do throughout a busy day, it can be tempting to cut corners on sleep, but doing so can have damaging effects on many aspects of your life.
With between 50 and 70 million Americans suffering from some sort of sleep disorder or occasional sleeping problem, it’s clear that a lack of quality sleep is a major public health issue. However, many people don’t realize just how important sleep is to their health. While we sleep, our bodies secrete hormones that positively affect our mood, energy, memory, concentration, and immune functions. So it’s important to get an adequate amount of sleep each night in order to maintain your health.
Getting adequate sleep provides benefits such as:
Less stress – Without enough rest, the body functions on high alert. Increased blood pressure and the production of stress hormones can make it harder to fall asleep and recharge the next night. Good sleep enables you to manage your stress levels better.
Daytime alertness – With enough rest, you’ll have higher levels of energy and mental acuity for performing complex mental and physical tasks. Sleep-deprived people cannot focus well on tasks. Sleep helps repair cells damaged by stress, fatigue and muscle strain. It improves concentration and memory function.
Better mental health – Getting enough sleep helps regulate levels of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that affects our mood. Low levels of serotonin can lead to depression and other behavioral health disorders.
Weight control – Lack of sleep adversely affects levels of hormones that regulate our appetite. This can contribute to being overweight or obese.
A healthier heart – Blood pressure and cholesterol levels are higher when you’re sleep-deprived, and these are risk factors for heart disease and stroke.
A safer day – With enough sleep, you can better avoid auto and workplace accidents caused by drowsiness. Testing has shown that with a driving simulator or a hand-eye coordination task, sleep-deprived people perform just as badly as intoxicated people.
A stronger immune system – Adequate sleep helps your body respond to infection, which can enable you to avoid colds, flu, and other viral and bacterial infections.
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Jeffrey R. Ungvary President