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How important is our sleep? Can we get by without it? Do we all need the same amount of sleep? These were just some of the questions discussed at our recent Western Counties Continual Professional Development meeting, led by Dr. Neil Stanley (P.H.D in sleep).
Sleep, Dr. Stanley believes, is the foundation of health. So why is it so important?
1) Sleep is required for brain processing, aiding memory, development and growth of neural structures and connections. This is particularly important for children.
2) Sleep is required for recuperation and healing and may affect the inflammatory response.
3) Sleep may affect metabolism. Decreased sleep may cause possible a) resistance to insulin b) increased hunger signals.
4) Sleep is required for emotional well being. Lack of sleep can cause decreased frontal lobe function, which affects our positive decision making and our mood.
5) Sleep may alter our immunity to disease.
Dr. Stanley goes on to state that we do not all require the same amount of sleep. Adults differ from requiring as little as 3 to as much as 11 hours. So the 8 hour rule is a myth and we certainly can not train ourselves to need less sleep! The main question to ask yourself is ‘ How do you feel during the day? ‘ Tiredness does not necessarily mean sleep deprivation, but excessively sleepy (likely to fall asleep whilst watching T.V, reading, conversation or driving) does suggest a need for more sleep.
Children on the other hand vary less in their need for sleep. Dr. Stanley suggests that it is imperative that children have a good sleep pattern. They need lots of sleep so that they get enough deep, slow wave sleep which is so important for brain growth. Half an hour less on a regular basis can make a big difference. Poor sleep patterns as a child can be associated with insomnia, Multiple sclerosis and obesity when older. Newborns require 16 to 20 hours and 10 year olds 10 hours. The ages in between lie on a continuum between these two.
Finally teenagers, whilst going through puberty, physiologically need to go to bed later and therefore rise later, requiring 9 – 10 hours.
Here at the Monkton Farleigh Osteopathic Practice we take into consideration peoples’ sleep patterns in their prognosis for recovery. We also help to improve babies and childrens’ sleep routines using cranial osteopathy.