You want it. You need it. You crave it. And although your parents and teachers may hound you because they think you're getting too much of it, the truth is that getting lots of quality sleep is important to your health, development and happiness. Between school, sports, extracurricular activities, part-time jobs, homework and a social life, time in the sack is at a premium.
Your brain needs sleep the way a guitar needs strings: it can't work without it. Through dreams, you create alternate realities that allow you to practice problem-solving skills and open your mind to creative inspiration.
In a sense, sleep allows your brain to lay down the code that your mind will use in the future. It gives your brain the chance to consolidate your memories so that a bank of information and experience is available when you need it. Connections between brain cells are solidified and fortified during sleep, which helps your brain process all of the information that you've gathered during the day.
Deep sleep actually increases production of a chemical called human growth hormone, which helps you maintain growth and metabolism. Obviously, this is especially important for young athletes. Teens need eight-and-a-half to nine hours a night. Lack of sleep can increase stress and affect your mood, not to mention the fact that when you're sleepy, you crave foods with simple sugar, which inhibits peak athletic performance.
Both quantity and quality of sleep matter. The sleep cycle has four stages—stage 1 through REM—and each is progressively deeper. The complete cycle lasts about 90 to 110 minutes, and you go through four to six a night. It's important to achieve the deep sleep stage to feel really rested and recovered going into the following day.
Michael F. Roizen, MD, is Professor of Internal Medicine and Anesthesiology, Chief Wellness Officer and Chair of the Wellness Institute at the Cleveland Clinic. He has co-founded 12 companies, including the popular websites RealAge.com and YOUBeauty.com.
Mehmet C. Oz, MD, is Vice-Chair and Professor of Surgery at Columbia University and director of the Cardiovascular Institute and Complementary Medicine Program at New York Presbyterian Hospital. His TV show—The Dr. Oz Show— recently won its third Emmy, with Dr. Oz his second as the best daytime talk show host.
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