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The Importance of Sleep

Lack of sleep leaves us drowsy and unable to concentrate. Sleep deprivation can contribute to mood swings, hallucinations, and fatigue.

After a good night’s rest, the world feels like a better place. Scientists do not know exactly why people need sleep, but studies show that sleep is necessary for survival.

The neurons that control sleep also interact closely with our immune system. Cytokines, the chemicals produced in the immune system that are used to fight infection, also help induce sleep. It explains why when we are sick we are often very tired and sleepy. Sleep may help the body conserve the energy necessary to for our immune system to fight of illness.  In return this extra sleep helps conserve resources needed to fight the disease.

Getting a good, deep night’s sleep may help people maintain optimal emotional and social functioning when they are awake. So, how do we ensure that we wake up on the right side of the bed?

• Set a schedule: Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time each morning, including weekends. Sleeping in on weekends makes it harder to wake up on Mondays because our sleep cycles are reset.
• Exercise: Daily exercise can often help people sleep. However, a workout too close to bedtime may have the opposite effect.
• Relax before bed: Create a bedtime ritual. Read, take a hot bath, or do something that signals to your body that it is time for bed.
• Maintain a comfortable room temperature: As anyone who has stayed in a hotel can attest, extreme temperatures can often disrupt or prevent a good night’s sleep.

If you have trouble falling asleep at night, or if you always feel tired, you may have a sleep disorder that requires a physician’s assistance. Many sleep disorders can be treated effectively.

For more information visit:

National Institutes of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS)

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