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Thursday, November 22, 2007

Importance of adequate sleep by Steven N. Muller

The number of hours of sleep we need on a daily basis varies depending on our ages and our current state of health. If we expect the sleep we do get to be beneficial, those hours of sleep must consist of quality sleep. If you are getting the suggested amount of sleep each night but still feel groggy or irritable or you cannot concentrate, there's a good chance you aren't getting enough deep sleep.
Newborn babies need the most, which is why they spend the majority of their days swaddled up in dreamland. Typically, newborns will sleep about 4 hours, then get up for a feeding, then they'll go right back to sleep for another few hours, then wake for a feeding or to get changed or to play. Then it's back to sleep. During a 24-hour period, newborns spend between 14 and 16 hours sleeping.
It's not until an infant gets to be between 3 to 6 months old that he or she can make it through an entire night without waking. Infants still spend a good part of their days asleep, sleeping between 10 �" 14 hours.
Believe it or not, children and teen-agers really should be getting this amount of sleep as well. After taking into consideration a child's or teen's schooling and other activities, a solid 10 hours of sleep is sufficient for most. Interestingly, what has been perceived for years as laziness in teen-agers is turning out to be something more physiological. Studies are showing that more sleep seems to be necessary because of all the growth and hormonal changes taking place in a teen's body.
Adults need the least amount of sleep, and should feel lucky (as well as refreshed) if they can get around 8 or 8 ½ hours of sleep each night. In some cultures, people reduce the number of hours they sleep during the nighttime by an hour or so and make up the difference by taking a midday nap. Either way, the sum still equals around 8 hours for adults.
Older adults need about the same amount of sleep each day as adults, around 8. Women who are pregnant should increase the amount of sleep they get by about 3 hours.
You'll know you are getting enough sleep each day if you wake up feeling refreshed. If you find that you have trouble staying focused, or it takes only a few minutes to fall deep into sleep, or that you 'nod off' during the day, chances are you're not getting enough sleep.
Sleep deprivation can have serious consequences. If you are driving, your reflexes may be slower, your eyes may stay closed longer when you blink and your chances of becoming involved in an accident increase. Consuming alcohol while sleep deprived is not advisable since alcohol compounds these problems. Judgment, impulses, reaction times, hand-eye coordination and attention spans can all become impaired when you are sleep deprived. Serious sleep deprivation can result in hallucinations.
Sleep and how it affects us is a complex subject. Even with the advances made in medicine every day, many aspects of sleep and why we need it are unclear. To learn the most you can about sleep, sleep disorders, and how to get the best rest possible, visit for more information.
About the Author
Science strives to understand as much as possible about sleep's effects and patterns, as well as our need for it. If you're interested in learning more about sleep and how it affects you, visit more information.

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