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Why Does Sleep Matter?

Why does sleep matter? Oh, let me count the ways! Sleep impacts our physical health, our physical and cognitive performance, and our overall happiness.

Since we are just beginning this blog on natural sleep health, let’s start at the beginning, with the simple question “Why does sleep matter?”

Sleep is essentially a quality of life issue. That is the simplest reason that it matters. When sleep is not going well, everything goes downhill. Let’s look at that a little more closely. How sleep impacts our quality of life is multifold.

1. Sleep health impacts our physical health, from obesity to inflammation to heart disease. When we don’t get enough sleep, our appetite hormones change, causing us to eat about 300 calories more a day. This adds up to 30 pounds over the course of a year. Inflammatory compounds increase with sleep deprivation. And some sleep disorders, particularly sleep breathing disorders, are associated with high blood pressure, increased risk of stroke and heart disease.

2. Sleep also is related to our mental health. There are correlations between sleep disruption and anxiety, depression and suicide.

3. There is a strong correlation between sleep health and productivity, both performance at work and at school.  Physical performance, as needed on the construction site, the highway, and the sports field is impaired with insufficient sleep.  Cognitive performance from simple memory to creative problem solving is also impaired.

4. The most striking is the impact sleep has on our happiness.  Research has shown that when people are sleep deprived, their good experiences are not as good, and poor experiences are worse.  Social cues (like anger) on another person’s face are missed when we’re sleep deprived, thereby impairing our social interaction.

That’s a pretty motivational list of how sleep impacts our quality of life, isn’t it? I hope you continue to join me weekly as we discuss sleep health for families, women, and children. We’ll also discuss how sleep improves work productivity and school performance, and most importantly what to do to improve your own sleep.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Heather Macintosh April 27, 2012 at 01:36 PM
This is great! I look forward to reading more. I have a 15-year-old who feels she can't get to sleep. She says she is just staring at the ceiling. I know the feeling!
Dr. Catherine Darley May 01, 2012 at 03:27 PM
Thanks for your comment Heather. Early in puberty our body clock shifts later, causing us to be alert later in the evening, and sleepy later in the morning. Your child is not the only 15 y.o. with trouble falling asleep! I'll be sure to write about teen sleep in the next weeks.

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