Sleep Requirements for the different Stages of Life

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A good laugh and a long sleep are the best cures in the doctor's book. ~ Irish Proverb

On most days, sleep will be the most important thing you do. Its benefits are hard to overemphasize:

* It helps repair your body. Extra protein molecules are produced during sleep which repair your body at a cellular level.
* It helps maintain a healthy heart. Sleep reduces cholesterol, as well as levels of stress and inflammation in the body. These have been linked to heart disease and stroke.
* It helps repair the wear and tear of daily living, and mitigates the effects of ageing, with its inevitable degeneration of cells and organs.
* It improves your memory. It allows your brain to process, organize and correlate new experiences and knowledge, increasing understanding and retention.
* It helps control body weight. Sleep promotes the regulation of hormones that effect and control the appetite.
* It strengthens the immune system, making you less vulnerable to infection and disease.

Since the importance of sleep is essential to the overall quality and quantity of life, it is important to plan a daily schedule that ensures enough time for restful, restorative slumber. How much sleep do humans in different age groups require?

* Infants: about 16 hours a day.

* Babies and toddlers: from 6 months to 3 years- between 10 and 14 hours a day. These hours may be a combination of night-time sleep and naps.

* Children: ages 3 to 6 years- between 10 and 12 hours; between 6 and 9 years- about 10 hours; between 9 and 12 years- about 9 hours of sleep.

* Teenagers: about 9 hours of sleep a night. This may be difficult, because teens are biologically programmed to stay up later and sleep in, in the morning. This conflicts with school hours.

* Adults: 7 to 8 hours.

* Pregnant women: may require a few hours more than usual, plus the occasional cat-nap.

* Seniors: 7 to 8 hours, however a senior's sleep may be for shorter time spans, may be of a lighter variety and may include naps during the day.

Sleep deprivation can have serious effects on both physical and mental health. It impairs the ability to think, to handle stress, to maintain a healthy immune system, and to moderate emotions. The brain's ability to problem-solve is greatly impaired, and decision-making abilities are compromised. Sleep deprivation can even cause hallucinations.

Other typical effects include: depression, heart disease, hypertension, irritability, slower reaction times, slurred speech and tremors. On most days, sleep will be the most important thing you do.

The best bridge between despair and hope is a good night's sleep. E. Joseph Cossman

More about this author: Carolyn Tytler

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