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Sleep

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Sleep is a complex process of restoration and renewal for the body. Scientists still do not have a definitive explanation for why humans have a need for sleep. We do know that sleep is not a passive process or “switching off” of body functions; sleep is believed to be important in many physiologic processes including the processing of experiences and the consolidation of memories. It is also clear that sleep is essential, not only for humans but for almost all animals.

Quick Facts
  • Sleep need varies as different people need different amounts of sleep. Eight and a quarter hours is the average for adults. Some people can cope very well with much less and some need much more every night; which in turn is associated with lifespan.
  • Sleep is an active state. Over the last 60 years scientists have discovered that our brains are very active while we sleep. In fact, some parts of the brain use more oxygen and glucose while asleep than when awake.
  • Deep sleep happens first as the first three hours of sleep have the deepest stages of sleep (Slow Wave Sleep). Later on in the night we have more of the sleep stage with vivid dreams (Rapid Eye Movement Sleep, REM sleep).
  • Sleep changes across the night in cycles of about 90 minutes. There is REM (dreaming) sleep in every cycle, even if only for a short time. We also have very brief arousals many times across the night. We are not aware of most of these arousals and we forget most of our dreams.
  • The timing of our need for sleep is based on two things. The first is how long we have been awake. The second is our body clock. If we stay awake all night we will feel more tired at 4am than at 10am. Scientists call the time between 3am and 5am the ‘dead zone’. It’s when our body clock makes us ‘dead’ tired.
  • Falling asleep can be hard as we can only create the right conditions for sleep both in our minds and in our environment.
  • Lack of sleep can bring you down such as mood changes like feeling depressed, irritable, hungry, increase in weight, loose interest in sexual life and overall imbalance physically and emotionally.
  • The higher the altitude, the greater the sleep disruption. Generally, sleep disturbance becomes greater at altitudes of 13,200 feet or more. The disturbance is thought to be caused by diminished oxygen levels and accompanying changes in respiration. Most people adjust to new altitudes in approximately two to three weeks.
  • In general, exercising regularly makes it easier to fall asleep and contributes to sounder sleep. However, exercising sporadically or right before going to bed will make falling asleep more difficult
  • 33% of those who drink 4 or more caffeinated beverages daily are designated at risk for sleep apnea a disorder in which breathing is interrupted briefly and repeatedly, chronic snoring can be an indicator.
  • Sleeping directly after learning something new will improve your ability to remember it effectively
  • Newborns sleep a total of 10.5 to 18 hours a day on an irregular schedule with periods of one to three hours spent awake.

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