Why Is Sleep Important?

I sleep too much. Way too much by today’s standards. When I tell someone that I sleep at 9:30 pm, I see raised eyebrows. Not sure if their expression is because they think “you are lucky to get to bed by that time”. Or may be it is along the lines of “you are too old and have no social life and are not invited to parties, or you are lazy”. Either way it does not really matter to me. I decline late night parties and meetings as much as possible. But you know in the modern era you are an outcast if you sleep early.


Many people take pride in saying they only sleep 5-6 hours a day. They make a lot of progress in life I guess. Since 10th grade, this used to be a special bragging right. Many students would mention that they studied hard and slept just 5-6 hours a night preparing for IITs, civil service exams etc. I have no idea what they were talking about. I would not want to deprive sleep for want of anything in life. Sad but true.


If there are 2 things that I really like to talk about then it is time and sleep. In this health series, I wanted to talk a little bit about sleep and how it affects us.


No need to sleep early

While I sleep early, I am certainly not saying it is a good habit to sleep early. It is just my biological clock. No matter what time I sleep in the night, I wake up early by around 6 am. I don’t know why. So I have to sleep early to catch my 8 hours of sleep. If you like to sleep late, by all means do it. The only point I am trying to make is that you need 8 hours of sleep. This is especially true for young kids when they are learning a lot of things in a short span. More sleep helps kids to remember things much better. By the way, they need more than 8 hours of sleep.


Unfortunately schools start early and some children may have to wake up early to catch a bus to reach school. They are losing on their sleep. This is one of the problem we faced when our kid went to school for 1 year. Sometimes our daughter would still be sleeping, but we had to wake her up to get her ready for school. Not something I liked. Another benefit of unschooling according to me :).


Myths

Some people say they are perfectly fine with 4 to 6 hours of sleep. They think 8 hours is unnecessary. Except for some very rare cases this is not true at all. You may perceive that you are fully functional, but your body and mind will disagree. You may think all you need is some caffeine, but it is only a temporary solution.


Oh and coming to caffeine, some people including me think that it does not affect their sleep. I used to drink several cups of black coffee in a day up until 6 pm in the evening, yet I could fall asleep without much trouble. Used to think coffee does not affect my sleep. I was completely wrong. May be I was falling asleep, but during the course of night I am probably not getting the deep sleep that I need. Ever since I learned about sleep I quit drinking evening tea or coffee. Now I take just one small cup of coffee in the morning after waking up. But want to quit that too.


Also remember that the damage done due to under sleeping can never fully be undone by “catching up” on more sleep the next day. Some damage is permanent. It is a myth that you can sleep less during the work week and binge sleep over the weekend to bring back the benefits of lost sleep.

Conclusion

There are several benefits of having sufficient sleep including better learning capability, mood, hormonal balance, longevity, cardiovascular health, immunity etc. You don’t have to take my word for it. Watch the nice video below. Of course you don’t have to agree with everything he has to say and I don’t know how accurate or valid the research is. But do you want to take a chance? All I am saying is get good sleep if at all possible, but certainly make sure your children are getting adequate sleep.



Go for a full night of sleep without the embarrassment and without the stigma of laziness associated with too much sleep. Human beings are the only species that deliberately deprive themselves of sleep for no apparent reason.


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