Research suggests the overall quality of our lives is directly affected by the amount and quality of sleep we experience each day. According to the National Sleep Foundation, sleep is as important to our health and overall well-being as air, food and water.
Not only does getting a good night’s sleep allow your body and mind to recuperate from the stress and hard work of day-to-day activities, but it actually builds your long-term memory, enabling you to store knowledge acquired during the day.
When you sleep, your brain has a chance to restore itself. During sleep we move through different stages, including REM (rapid-eye movement) and NREM (non-rapid eye movement). These stages alternate over a period of 90 minutes. The following sleep stages contribute to the brain’s learning and storage process.
Stage One: The first two hours of sleep are spent in deep sleep, where information gathered during the day flows into the cerebral cortex of the brain, where long-term memories are stored.
Stage Two: During the next hours of sleep, the cortex sorts through the information, “filing” it to various locations and networks.
Stage Three: The final two hours — the Rapid Eye Movement (REM) stage of sleep — is the crucial sleep phase for restoring the mind. Elaborate dreams and high levels of brain activity characterize this cycle of sleep. During this stage, the mind sorts and reorganizes the day’s experiences. This explains why we often seem to solve problems in our dreams! Many artists, musicians and scientists report that they do their most creative thinking while sleeping.
Quantity of sleep is important as well. The average adult needs seven to eight hours of sleep, although some people are completely functional on no more than five hours, and others need as many as 10 hours.
When you don’t get enough sleep there are negative consequences.
- According to the American Sleep Association, driver fatigue is responsible for an estimated 100,000 motor vehicle accidents and 1,500 deaths every year.
- The National Sleep Foundation says lack of sleep can lead to problems completing a task, concentrating and making decisions.
- Sleep deprivation also can lead to poor performance at work and an increased risk of injury.
- The Better Sleep Council
- National Sleep Foundation
- American Sleep Association
- American Sleep Apnea Association
- WebMD: Sleep Disorders Center
- Pain + Sleep