Waking up at the crack of dawn, as the Rooster calls, is not my favorite time of the day. New research suggests that roosters don’t need the light of new day to know when its dawn – rather, their internal clocks alert them to the time. I often wish humans also had an inner alarm, finding it difficult enough to get to sleep let alone get up.
Our relationship with sleep is a fascinating area of study. Why is sleep important? How does it affect our behavior? How does aging affect our sleep?
Along with the physical changes that occur as we get older, changes to our sleep patterns are also a part of the normal aging process. As people age they tend to have a harder time falling asleep and more trouble staying asleep than when they were younger. It is a common misconception that you need less sleep as you get older. In fact, research shows that our sleep needs remain constant throughout adulthood. This is because sleep has so many benefits to our health and well-being.
- Sleep improves memory. During sleep you can strengthen memories or “practice” skills learned while you were awake.
- Sleep helps you to live longer. Too much or too little sleep is associated with a shorter lifespan, and it affects the quality of life.
- Sleep helps to curb inflammation. Inflammation is linked to heart disease, stroke, diabetes, arthritis, and premature aging. Research indicates that people who get less sleep—six or fewer hours a night—have higher blood levels of inflammatory proteins than those who get more sleep.
- Sleep can spur creativity. In addition to consolidating memories, or making them stronger, your brain appears to reorganize and restructure them, which may result in more creativity as well.
- Sleep can help you to be a winner. If you’re an athlete, there may be one simple way to improve your performance: sleep.
- Sleep can improve your grades. Children between the ages of 10 and 16 who have sleep disordered breathing, which includes snoring, sleep apnea, and other types of interrupted breathing during sleep, are more likely to have problems with attention and learning.
- Sleep can sharpen your attention. A lack of sleep can result in ADHD – like symptoms in kids.
- Sleep can help you to achieve a healthy weight. If you are thinking about going on a diet, you might want to plan an earlier bedtime too.
- Sleep can lower stress. When it comes to our health stress and sleep are nearly one and the same – and both can affect cardiovascular health.
- Sleep can help you to avoid accidents. Being tired accounted for the highest number of fatal single-car run-off-the-road crashes due to the driver’s performance—even more than alcohol!
- Sleep can help you steer clear of depression. Sleeping well means more to our overall well-being than simply avoiding irritability.
So, cut out late night caffeine, make sure your bedroom is dark and cozy, avoid scary movies and late night work and personal to-do-lists right before bed and get yourself a good night’s sleep so you’re ready and raring to wake up at the same time as your local Rooster.