One of the most puzzling and confusing habits among the animal kingdom is one that continues to cause a conundrum for scientists to this day, and that is the concept of sleep. From what we know, it appears that every known species of animal performs some sort of sleep-like action. While this action and its duration of time differ in drastic levels between species, every creature has developed some sort of evolutionary necessity that is sleep. So, why?
Sleep is either a necessity to life or one of the biggest evolutionary weaknesses to ever adapt across the entire animal kingdom. But, some scientists have devoted their energy solving this question, and sleep is beginning to be seen in its true light of importance. As humans, we appear to be the only creature that actually attempts to minimize the amount of sleep that we get each night. Scientists say that a solid seven and a half to eight hours of sleep are necessary for full, attentive brain function. In fact, studies show that anything less than this, at all, leads directly to decreased brain function and an instant disruption in the production of multiple hormones and decreased activity among multiple genes that control your brain’s “sleep clock. ” Upon changing the routines of these genes, a person can severely alter their ability to sleep and the quality of sleep that they are going to receive.
By establishing a consistent bedtime routine, a person is guaranteeing that they are fully alert and ready to perform actions at the top of their abilities. Not only that, but they are also contributing to a healthy lifestyle. Recently, scientists discovered a connection between a person’s metabolism and the amount of sleep they have. With a full night’s sleep, the body creates the hormone leptin at its regular amounts. However, upon receiving less sleep the production of leptin begins to decline. This results in the brain not being able to recognize when the stomach is full. In fact, a study from the University of Chicago School of Medicine shows that this reduction of leptin as a result of little sleep can lead a person towards diabetes within just a week of bad sleeping habits. So basically, the core of living a healthy lifestyle is a commitment to establishing a good sleeping routine that sacrifices a solid third of ones day to sleep. In the end, it shouldn’t really been as a sacrifices at all.
People have developed the idea that cutting out time for sleep allows you to accomplish more. When, in reality, their willing sleep deprivation slows down their brains ability to perform even basic tasks. Therefore, upon trying to accomplish activities that require focus and commitment, their lack of sleep will cause them to actually work slower and with less quality of thought. In fact, an article from SLEEP magazine actually described a study that linked a consistent sleep routine to the infant and maternal well-being.
The study collected date from 405 mothers and their infant or toddler, all of whom had some reported sleeping issue. They took data from a week of a regular sleep schedule with no consistent routine, and then compared it to date from two weeks of a consistent routine that included a bath and other bedtime preparations. What the data showed was that the consistent routine actually decreased the number of nighttime sleeping problems among the children and the maternal stress felt by the mother. So the evidence is clear, sleep is very good for us. Even more, conforming ones life to a schedule that allows for a full nights sleep will drastically help the person’s well being – whether they’re 5 months, 5 years, or 5 decades old.
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G. Segal says:
Are there any studies regarding the night time routine in seniors? What would be considered the right amount of hours of sleep?
Thanks for the comment. I really don't know about any scientific research. Maybe the author of this post would disagree, but I would guess that the amount of hours should not vary much as compared to healthy adults, that is, between 7 and 8 hours. With that said, I know that a sizable percentage of old folks tend to have light sleep, as they frequently wake during the night. The elderly also tend to have their deep sleep phase shortened when compared to younger adults. These factors may considerably diminish the number of hours of sleep. But, again, I don't think they should sleep fewer hours than what's normal.