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The Crucial Role Sleep Plays in Our Lives

Published in Sleep Medicine, For the Health of It Author: Tessa Slinden,PA-C

In today's fast-paced world, where demands and busy schedules are constantly vying for our attention, sleep can often take a backseat in our lives. However, sleep is fundamental for overall well-being in both adults and children.

Sleep is not just a time of rest when your day finally ends. Sleep is a complex process that rejuvenates the body and mind. Adults and children require adequate amounts of sleep to support various functions, including physical and cognitive development, immune system regulation, and emotional balance.

For adults, sleep plays a crucial role in managing stress, improving memory, and regulating hormones that control appetite and metabolism. Chronic sleep deprivation in adults has been linked to a higher risk of obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and mental health disorders.

Children, on the other hand, rely heavily on sleep for growth, learning, and overall development. During sleep, the brain processes information from the day and solidifies new learning experiences. In addition to having a direct effect on happiness, research shows that sleep impacts alertness and attention, cognitive performance, mood, resiliency, vocabulary acquisition, and learning and memory in children.

The amount of sleep you need depends on your age. Children and teens need more sleep than adults. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommends that you get the following amount of sleep on a regular basis. Individual needs may vary.

  • Babies (4 to 12 months) - 12 to 16 hours, including naps
  • Toddlers (12 to 24 months) – 11 to 14 hours, including naps
  • Preschoolers (3 to 5 years) – 10 to 13 hours, may include a nap
  • School-aged kids (6 to 12 years) – 9 to 12 hours
  • Teenagers (13 to 18 years) – 8 to 10 hours
  • Adults should sleep 7 or more hours per night

Quality of sleep is also important. Even if you're in bed for the recommended number of hours, if your sleep is constantly interrupted or of poor quality, you may not experience the full health benefits.

There are a variety of sleep disorders. Some are common, like insomnia, the inability to fall asleep or stay asleep. While others are rare. About 70 million people experience sleep disorders each year.

Sleep disorders that involve difficulty breathing during sleep are classified as sleep-related breathing disorders. Obstructive sleep apnea is the most common disorder of this type, and there are several variations of sleep apnea.

If you or your partner notice loud snoring or instances of stopped breathing during sleep, it might be an indication of sleep apnea. You should talk with your doctor if sleep problems persist. A sleep study, also known as a polysomnogram, is a diagnostic tool that can provide a comprehensive view of your sleep patterns and identify any underlying issues. Identifying sleep problems can allow for targeted interventions that can significantly improve sleep quality and overall well-being.

Recognizing the immense benefits that quality sleep offers to both adults and children is the first step toward fostering a healthier lifestyle.