We hear it all the time….”the average person needs around eight hours of sleep per night.”

Well, for some people it is just not convenient, and for others (Like ME!) it’s just not going to happen in this lifetime. NHS Heroes But who cares? What DOES matter, is how not getting enough sleep impacts our health (and how long we keep it).

There’s a lot more to sleeping than just having a time set aside to rest up for tomorrow. While that’s part of the process, it’s not the end of it.

So (I ask myself a lot) WHY do we need to sleep at all?

By nature, our bodies can only handle so much physical endurance in one single day. While it is physically possible to push the limits from time to time, it just can’t be done indefinitely without experiencing some harmful side effects (like doing dumb things, pushing “delete” instead of “send on an article, for instance!)

As we exert ourselves during the day, some processes in our bodies start lagging behind – pretty much like batteries wearing down – because energy is diverted elsewhere in the body as needed in the moment. When we sleep, these processes catch up on their backlog (so, I need to sleep for about a month now).

Also, when we sleep we are giving our bodies time to heal from the physical abuse we heap on them. When we’re sleeping, we relieve pressure on body parts that aren’t feeling so well (provided you have a decent mattress, that it) like a broken rib, a terrible-bad, head ache caused by stress, sore eyes, you name it. With the pressure removed, the body can try to heal itself without interference or further damage.

And finally, sleeping time is when your mind is sorting itself out (but first you have to get it to shut up).

During the first sleeping cycle (most people sleep in cycles of roughly three hours each), most of it is spent in a deep sleep to get as much physical rest as possible.

In the later cycles, however, more and more of the sleeping time is devoted to what scientists refer to as “rapid eye movement” (REM sleep) periods. It is believed that we dream during these periods; which explains why you usually wake from a dream in the morning, and seldom do so during the middle of the night…well, there are exceptions to everything, but still…

Keep in mind that the amount of sleep you get is not the only thing that’s important. The quality of the sleep figures in there somewhere. It ‘s absolutely no use sleeping for eight hours per night if you are uncomfortable, or go to bed on a full stomach, or if you are surrounded by noise. (Can someone tell me how to eliminate my upstairs neighbors?)

Additionally, light makes it difficult for most people to switch their minds off when trying to sleep. Light stimulates the production of chemicals in your brain that literally “wakes it up” – so the less light you have intruding into your bedroom, the better the quality of sleep you will enjoy.

Regular exercise will help your body to keep up its temperature cycles (it does not stay perfectly constant as most people believe), and by forcing it higher during daytime, your body will be able to “shut off” better when you have to go to sleep.

Is all this starting to sink in now and sound familiar?

Eat healthy, sleep healthy, exercise healthy…Oh my. That’s all to living long, and living well. Who Knew?

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