Is sleep really important for living a productive and healthy lifestyle? And if yes, how so?

Let me fill you in on six secrets people who get enough sleep know to be true.

1. They embrace dreams.

When you dream, neural synaptic connections are strengthened. This means that what you’ve learned during the day is branded into your memory. Research has shown that dreaming is an exercise in creativity and will help you to harness your own creative energies during your waking hours. Freud discovered dreams are how we express our unconscious emotions.

“And then, in dreaming, the clouds I thought would open and show riches ready to drop upon me; that, when I waked I cried to dream again.” ~ William Shakespeare

2. They have two bedtimes.

They know that in order to sleep soundly they have to quiet their mind and slowly transition into peaceful state to prepare for sleep. Neuroscientist (and avid sleeper) Russell Foster advocates bedtime routines for uninterrupted sleep. Because sleep arrives after a whole string of operations that happen inside your brain, it’s important to get into a  calm mental state to facilitate the brain’s functions. He suggests making the room as dark as possible, making sure the temperature is cool, and shutting off any screen time two hours before the actual time you intend to fall asleep.

3. They have two wake up times.

Ever woken up on the wrong side of the bed? Maybe it wasn’t the side that was wrong but the way you jolted yourself from blissful sleep into a harsh awakening. Waking up slowly helps the brain send neural messages to activate sections of the brain that are used in our awakened state. Our biological clock then kicks in. Set your alarm clock at least 15 minutes earlier than the time you actually want to wake up. Then enjoy a gradual waking period.

4. They feel tired and know that sleepiness is a healthy part of our biological makeup.

It’s important to see fatigue as nature’s way of letting you know that it’s time to renew and restore. One of the many benefits of sleep is that the brain has time to sort through the neural connections you’ve made during the day. It will toss out the ones that don’t count and strengthen the important connections. (Like all the information in that 800-page text book you’ve been working through!)

5. They don’t stress about a sleepless night.

People who get enough sleep forgive sleeplessness. In fact, having a sleepless night or two is acceptable as long as you are aware of your body’s need to make up for your lack of sleep sooner rather than later. Worrying about whether or not you will fall asleep only makes the situation worse.

6. They view sleep as a ‘me’ time.

Sleep is so critical to your own physical and mental health that it must be guarded. If you have children or live with others, teach them to be respectful of your sleep. Research has shown that adequate sleep is not only restorative and a healing process, but also contributes to a healthy body mass index, prevents the health hazards related to stress, and even prevents many forms of mental illness. Far from being a ‘luxury,’ shortages of deep sleep can be deadly. An estimated 31% of drivers will fall asleep at the wheel due to poor sleeping habits. Each year 100,000 accidents in the US alone are a result of sleep deprivation.

How much is enough?

Doctors recommend 10 hours of sleep per day for children. Teens are often thought to be lazy, but their biological changes demand a minimum of nine hours of sleep per day. And if adults want the full health benefits of sleep they should count on getting at least eight hours of sleep every night. Love yourself, love your sleep!

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