Why is sleep important?

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Sleep allows our bodies to carry out functions that are vital for our physical and mental wellbeing.

Why do we sleep?

We still don’t really know, but we do know that we need it. Sleep allows our bodies to carry out functions that are vital for our physical and mental wellbeing, leading to a whole range of benefits…

  • Cell growth and repair – during sleep, new cells grow and existing cells are repaired, keeping us healthy, and our immune system strong
  • Memory – while we sleep our brains move short-term memories into long-term storage, especially important for young minds learning about the world or studying for exams
  • Relaxation – sleep gives us respite from the information overload of the day
  • Healthy eating – good sleep balances production of the hormones leptin and ghrelin, which help us to follow a healthy diet rather than craving more carbs
  • Concentration – healthy sleep helps us to function better during the day, driving more safely, working and studying more effectively, getting more out of the activities we enjoy
  • Good mood – after a good night’s sleep we usually feel happier, and more able to deal with the issues life throws at us
  • Social interaction – feeling rested helps us to keep an eye on our actions, taking fewer risks, reacting appropriately to other people, enjoying others’ company
  • Energy – a good sleep pattern means we have the energy to get the most out of the time when we’re awake

For children and young people, this means:

  • Healthy growth
  • Positive mood and sociability
  • Better mental health
  • Doing better at school
  • Enjoying life
  • Improved immunity and better recovery from illness
  • Healthy weight

For parents and carers, it’s also important to be aware of how lack of sleep can affect your own mental and physical wellbeing. Look out for changes in mood and concentration, or for raised levels of anxiety or depression, and remember that driving when sleep deprived can be as dangerous as driving when drunk.

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