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The Importance of Sleep

by Olivia Xu

 

Parents are always reminding their kids, “go to sleep early.” But, why is sleep so important? Today, let’s discuss some ways sleep helps the human body, the dangers of having too much or too little sleep, and how much sleep the average human needs depending on their age. 

Immune System

First of all, sleep helps boost the immune system. According to Eric J Olsen, a M.D. from Mayo Clinic, “During sleep, your immune system releases proteins called cytokines, some of which help promote sleep.” Cytokines are proteins that signal the inflammatory response when you get inflammation. A lack of sleep can cause a decrease in the production of cytokines and lead to a harder time fighting off infectious diseases.

Memory and Judgement

First of all, sleep helps boost the immune system. According to Eric J Olsen, a M.D. from Mayo Clinic, “During sleep, your immune system releases proteins called cytokines, some of which help promote sleep.” Cytokines are proteins that signal the inflammatory response when you get inflammation. A lack of sleep can cause a decrease in the production of cytokines and lead to a harder time fighting off infectious diseases.

Researchers have also researched the effects of sleep deprivation on one’s memory and judgement. When sleep deprived, people tend to become easily distracted. The neurons in the brain will be unable to rest, making it hard to access and process information. This in turn makes it harder to make good judgements because we lose the ability to assess the situation and make the right choice. Sleep is essential in helping your memory and judgement. Without sleep, it can become hard to remember things and learn new information.

Sleep has so many benefits, so it must be best to get as much sleep as possible, right? Wrong. While it is good to get sleep, it isn’t good to get too much sleep either. According to an article written by Carol DerSarkissian, an MD on WebMD, oversleeping can lead to diabetes, obesity, headaches, and a host of other problems.

On the other hand, not getting enough sleep for long periods of time is also extremely dangerous. In 1965, highschool student Randy Gardner stayed awake for 264 hours, or eleven days, to see the side effects of not sleeping. On the second day, his eyes stopped focusing and he lost the ability to identify objects by touch. On the third, he became moody, and his movements were uncoordinated. By the end of the eleven days, he was struggling to concentrate, had trouble with short-term memory, became paranoid, and started seeing hallucinations. While luckily, he recovered with no long term psychological or physical issues, that isn’t the same for everyone. Going too long without sleep can cause hormone imbalance, illness, and in the most extreme cases, death. Studies have shown that sleeping less than six hours a night for a long amount of time can increase the risk of a stroke. 

The Drawbacks of Sleeping Too Much Or Too Little

How Much Sleep Should You Be Getting?

To summarize, sleep is extremely important in staying healthy. Too much or too little sleep can be harmful to the body. But then, how many hours should you sleep? To the right is a table with the hours of sleep per day needed depending on your age. 

Age Hours of Sleep
0-3 Months 14-17
4-12 Months 12-16
1-2 Years 11-14
3-5 Years 10-13
6-13 Years 9-12
14-17 Years 8-10
18-64 Years 7-9
65 and Above 7-8

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