What Are The Benefits Of Sleep?

– Written by JoAnna Inks 

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Sleep has always been a bit of a mystery.  Also, It probably always will be.

If you look at sleep from an evolutionary standpoint, it does seem like something we probably should’ve given up a LONG time ago.

The fact is that we fall into a near unconscious state for a large part of our day, every single day, leaving us very vulnerable to danger, especially in the early days of civilization.

It makes me wonder how we ever made it as a species?

That proves to me that whatever it is that sleep does for us it’s vital to our health and well-being.

I’m sure that if it weren’t then those people who need less sleep would’ve dominated the gene pool long ago.  And, those that need more sleep would have, well, been eaten! I’m pretty sure being eaten would be horrible.

Sleep researchers haven’t been able to identify precisely why it is that we sleep.  However, there’s a consensus among researchers, and new mothers, that good quality sleep is good for us in SO many ways.

LEARNING

I think we can all agree that we have a hard time focusing when we’ve not had enough sleep.  Absorbing information is only half the battle. Well, technically, it’s just a third of the battle because memory and learning are divided into three:  Acquisition, consolidation, and recall.

Simply put, we need to receive information, be able to stabilize it in our memories, and access it when you’re watching “Jeopardy”!

Acquisition & recall only take place while you’re awake.  However, consolidation, “takes place during sleep through the strengthening of the neural connections that form our memories. The overall evidence suggests that adequate sleep each day is essential for learning and memory.”1

Even if you manage to acquire information, without proper sleep, that information just won’t be stored in your brain.  So, when you try to access it, you’ll find yourself staring with a blank face.

You know the one your husband gets when you ask him to communicate his needs more often? That one. LOL

I’m a big believer that education should be a lifelong pursuit.  However, once we’re out of school, learning does become more optional.

For kids, learning is their primary responsibility for the first 18-22 years of their lives, so if we consider how much they need to learn and retain, the importance of healthy sleep for children is hard to overstate.

MOOD

I’m sure we can all agree that when we don’t get enough sleep, we tend to be irritable and short-tempered.

A study from the University of Pennsylvania showed that subjects who experienced even partial sleep deprivation reported feelings of stress, anger, sadness, and mental exhaustion. 2

This certainly isn’t new information.  We’re well aware that we can get emotional and negative when we’ve not been sleeping well.  

However, the question is why?

Why doesn’t sleep deprivation cause us to have these negative thoughts and feelings?

It’s a little bit of a mystery but, research has shown that lack of sleep stimulates activity in the amygdala.  The amygdala is a small almond-shaped part of the brain that’s responsible for feelings of anger & fear.

With the amygdala activated irrational anger & fear can rear their ugly heads.

HEALTH

Now we know that getting enough sleep is paramount in learning and our emotional well-being but what about more tangible benefits of sleep?

Eating and breathing are vital to our survival.  And, so is sleep! These three things go together, and we need all 3 to maintain our status as healthy individuals.

“Sleep services all aspects of our body in one way or another: molecular, energy balance, as well as intellectual function, alertness, and mood,” says Dr. Merrill Mitler, a sleep expert and neuroscientist at the National Institutes of Health. “Sleep affects almost every tissue in our bodies,”

A person who gets 7-9 hours of sleep each night see lower rates of obesity, high blood pressure, stroke, infections, depression, diabetes, inflammation, hypertension, heart disease, heart attacks, and heart failure.

They also report more satisfactory sex lives, take fewer sick days, and perform better at work than individuals who sleep less than 7 hours a night.

Sleep, although mysterious, is an essential part of a happy, healthy life.

But, all of that changes when you have a baby?

You’re a new mom; you’re expected to sacrifice your sleep for years to attend to your baby’s every need, even in the middle of the night.

This is the most problematic myth about parenthood and one that should be put out to pasture.

Here’s the deal; your baby needs more sleep than you do!

Those little people may look like they aren’t doing much when they’re sleeping, but nothing could be further from the truth.

There’s a frenzy of activity going on behind the scenes when a baby sleeps.

Growth hormones are being secreted to help baby grow.  Their bodies are producing cytokines which fight off infections and produce antibodies.

During sleep, all kinds of miraculous systems are working to lay the foundation for growth & development.  And, they’ll continue to do so through adolescence, given a chance to.

Nature does ALL of the heavy lifting.  All you need to do is get your little on to close their eyes & sleep!

As a sleep expert, I do see many people telling parents of babies that don’t sleep well that they should get accustomed to their baby waking 7-8 times a night!

To those people, you have NO idea what you’re talking about.  NONE!

And, your advice isn’t just wrong, it’s harmful.

Telling people to live with their baby’s sleep issues is stopping them from addressing the problem, and that’s a concern for everyone in the family.

Wanting your baby to sleep isn’t selfish, and it’s not because you want to sleep in late (although that would be nice!).  It’s because you, and even more so your babies, need proper sleep for ALL of the reasons listed above.

If your baby wakes 8 or 9 times every night, crying until you rock them back to sleep, that’s NOT motherhood-as-usual.

That’s a baby who has serious trouble sleeping and it’s interfering with their natural development.  It’s no different from jaundice or an ear infection. It’s a serious health issue, and it should be addressed.  

So, anyone telling you to tough it out with no sleep for the next six years is giving you horrible advice.  

I doubt this advice is doled out, but even so, it needs to stop.

If we accept infants that don’t sleep well, then we accept toddlers that don’t sleep well, and we accept adolescent children that don’t sleep well, and they ultimately become adults that don’t sleep well, AND all of those scary health issues come along with it.

Every new mother out there,  I implore you, don’t give in to the idea that sleep is a luxury that you must go without because you became a mom.

If your baby’s not sleeping well, do something about it.  It’s not unrealistic, or selfish, it’s, and the benefits are prolific.

Want to teach your baby to sleep through the night so that everyone in the family can get the rest they so desperately need?

Schedule a call with me today and let’s get your baby sleeping better in a few short nights!

All the best until we talk,

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