“We are fearfully and wonderfully made.” (Psalm 139:14) Your body is programmed to spend one third of its life asleep – and to sleep in specific cycles of light sleep, deep sleep, and active brain sleep. Each complete cycle takes about 90 minutes, and has a specific assignment that affects thinking, memory, growth, your immune system, and so on.

We are designed to rest at night and work in the daylight period. It has been shown that lack of sleep slows reaction time, decreases concentration, degrades memory, and directly leads to a steady decline in logical reasoning.  The average person needs 7 or 8 hours of sleep per 24-hour period.  Six or less hours of sleep triple your risk of a car accident, but more than nine hours can also harm your health.

We heal and grow during sleep, which is one of the most important times of recovery.  We now know that sleep allows us to learn new things and to transfer the significant ones into our long-term memory. Sleep prepares and replaces damaged neurons, calms disease-triggering inflammation, and keeps us mentally sharp, creative, and productive. It even controls the aging process, helps keep our weight down, lowers our blood pressure and impacts our overall health. And recently neurologists have linked sleep deprivation to an increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. Scientists now believe it is during sleep that the waste products are flushed out of the brain. If you are not sleeping well, you will increase your stress and reduce your joy – as well as that of people around you.

Mark Hyman, Director, Cleveland Clinic Center for Functional Medicine, relates a study of sharpshooters from the military, snipers who were 99.9 percent accurate with 8 hours of sleep.  With 7 hours they were about 90%, with 6 hours about 60%, and with 5 hours or less, missed most of the time. And the Center for Disease Control found that one-third of Americans report not getting enough sleep. Sleep is discussed in detail in my e-Book, Sleep: A Time management Strategy, and its impact on memory in Boost Your Memory & Sharpen Your Mind, both published by Bookboon.com.

We should get adequate sleep, look after our health, watch our diet, and be careful what we consume from TV and the Internet – since our brain is part of our body. But I occasionally find myself staying awake after midnight to watch the end of a hockey game or to finish a blog article or whatever. So, I can relate to those who struggle in this area.

A study published by the National Academy of Sciences reports that even an hour or two less sleep a night can negatively impact the more than 700 genes required for repairing cell tissue.

Sleep is even thought to effect cholesterol levels, which play a significant role in heart disease. Researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison found that sufficient sleep not only restores cognitive functioning, but also may fortify the brain over the long term. During sleep, activity is increased in genes involved in producing brain cells responsible for coating neurons with myelin, the brain`s insulating material. This allows electrical impulses to travel quickly and efficiently to other neurons. Myelin deficiency is at the root of multiple sclerosis disease, and can contribute to symptoms such as fatigue, vision and hearing impairment and a loss of coordination.

It’s ironic that many of us sacrifice sleep to get more work done when a lack of sufficient sleep is one of the major reasons that we are not productive during the day.