The Importance of Sleep

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Main points in the Article As you may know there is much research that has been done on the subject matter of sleep as there most certainly will be in the future. We are becoming more and more aware of the positive effects of getting enough sleep as well as the negative effects of lack of sleep. The article I chose entitled “Sleep Thieves” written by freelance Meryl Davids Landau, explains how some sleep studies which focused on children may help us to understand why it can be so difficult at times for our children to “just settle down. Most parents know the relief of the first time their infant sleeps through the night. What they may not consider is the likelihood of a childhood of sleep disturbances caused by unassuming things such as the types of foods we feed to them or playing an educational game on the computer before bedtime. When I my children were approximately 6 years and younger my friends and family used to call me “The Sleep Warden” , and that I was. We (yes, “we”) had a strict bedtime and routines that we followed and we were all quite happy and well rested!

No, you would not catch us out shopping with screaming kids at midnight. I always felt so bad for those kids.. they were obviously so exhausted and absolutely miserable. With that said this article has validated my neuroticism as well as opened my eyes to some things I hadn’t considered since I have relaxed a little as a retired Sleep Warden. One of the most interesting things I found was about Sleep Apnea. Basically, sleep apnea occurs when a person stops breathing several times while they are asleep. Not only is this quite dangerous- you aren’t breathing! but it also disrupts sleep causing the person to miss out on obtaining the very essential deep sleep. To take it a step further, children that suffer from sleep apnea often also suffer from behavioral problems and learning disabilities, not to mention high blood pressure. I would think that this is probably underdiagnosed just due to lack of awareness, however a recent study of healthy elementary school kids found that 25% of them had mild apnea! Apnea is kids can be caused by chronic sinus infections or as in my own daughter’s case chronic tonsillitis and oversized tonsils.

Before her tonsillectomy at age seven, she snored terribly which is another sign parents should watch for if apnea is a concern. Though I have had experience with this there are as I said many other points that I had not considered. For instance, if your child is in school all day and then comes home and plays computer games, watches television, or talks on the phone for the rest of his day then chances are he is not getting enough exercise. Some kids are just not into sports, like my son. So if I don’t give him limits he will play on his computer for hours on end or until I make him turn it off.

Then he is FORCED to go outside or even, (gasp), read a book. According to sleep doctors, your childs’ electronics should be turned off no less than 30-45 minutes before bed. Research Methods Researchers at Wayne State University studied the effects of cell phone usage and what if any correlation it had to sleep. What they found was quite interesting to me; those subjects who were exposed to radiofrequency waves (very much like ones emitted by cell phones) for three hours before bedtime had a shortened deep- sleep stage- unfortunately this also happens to be the time during which our bodies repairs and restores.

Similarly, the effects of the cell phone usage seem to carry over to computer usage likely because of the bright light disturbing the circadian rhythm. The lesson in this study as it applies to us and our children? Don’t text or talk on your cell phones for three hours before you want to go to sleep. Another study conducted by New Zealand researchers monitored seven year olds in a study to determine the effects of having too much or too little exercise as it related to sleep. They found that for every hour that the child was inactive it took him/her three minutes longer to fall asleep.

The reason for this is most likely because when we exercise our brains produce chemicals which promote sleep and relaxation. What chapters relate? As we learned in Chapter four, our brain is doing many things in order to prepare us to sleep and likewise during sleep. On pages 112-113, we learned more specifically about the two complementary theories that explain our need for sleep. First, the restorative theory of sleep states that while we are awake and doing the many things we do we are thus creating “wear and tear” on our bodies and minds.

In turn, during sleep our minds, bodies, and energy are being restored as well as the consolidation of memories. Second, the circadian theory of sleep, also known as the evolutionary or adaptive theory, states that sleep evolved to keep humans safe or away from predators during the night when they were more likely to be hunted. Also, on page 115 we read about the effects of sleep deprivation, one of which being the impact that it has on our ability to learn. I found it interesting that researchers found children with sleep apnea often have learning disabilities, another validation of previous studies on this matter. Comments

I feel that many people underestimate the enormous importance of sleep for themselves and their children. I believe that a persons’ full potential cannot be attained without a proper amount of sleep. It sounds so simple and maybe even a little silly to some people; there is almost a social stigma that a good, healthy amount of sleep suggests laziness in a person. It seems we live in a society that craves overstimulation and I hope more people will realize that it is simply not healthy to be sleep deprived. In fact, it can be dangerous. Being overtired takes a toll on your physical well-being, mental well-being and that of those around you.

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