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Why Sleep is so Important

by Beth on August 29th, 2017

As summer winds down, our lives start to get busy again. The demands of work, school, and other activities can make it hard to get enough sleep. And that can hurt your well-being. A lack of sleep causes anxiety and depression and impairs your brain functioning. It also weakens your immune system and contributes to weight gain.

These are all good reasons to make an effort to get more sleep, but what happens to your brain when it’s asleep may convince you even more. During sleep your brain creates and organizes memories. Throughout the day your brain encodes memories, but they aren’t stored for the long-term until you go to sleep. Your brain also processes complex information while you sleep. This explains why we learn something better after sleeping on it. It’s never a good idea to pull an all-nighter. If you stay up late trying to learn more, a lack of sleep will keep you from remembering it the next day.

Another really important function of sleep is the cleaning out of toxins in your brain. Researchers injected dye into the brains of mice and discovered that when they were asleep the dye flowed rapidly, but it barely flowed at all when the mice were awake. That’s because the space between their brain cells and ours increases by 60 percent when we sleep. This allows toxic proteins that are by-products of neural activity when we are awake to be cleared from the brain. Not getting enough sleep can prevent your brain from flushing out toxins that may contribute to diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

Getting 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night should be a priority. Here are some tips for getting a better night’s sleep:

  • Go to bed and get up at the same time every day.
  • Turn off televisions, smartphones, laptops, and tablets at least 30 minutes before going to bed to limit your exposure to blue light.
  • Don’t bring your phone into your bedroom. Buy an alarm clock if you need one.
  • Avoid large meals, caffeine, and alcohol before bedtime.
  • Keep your sleeping environment dark, quiet, and cool.
  • Set an alarm clock to go to bed. Work backwards from when you need to wake up to make sure you will get 7 to 8 hours of sleep.

From → Well-being

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