To understand why sleep is important, think of your body like a factory that performs a number of vital functions. As you drift off to sleep, your body begins its nightshift work by healing damaged cells, boosting your immune system and recharging your heart and cardiovascular system for the next day.

We all know the value of sleeping well and have all experienced the feeling of being refreshed after a good night’s sleep, but many of us are not getting the quality sleep needed to truly receive the health benefits of sleep.

The sleep cycle consists of two recurring phases: REM (rapid eye movement) and NREM (non-REM or non-rapid eye movement). Both phases are important for different functions in our bodies. NREM sleep occupies 75–80 percent of total sleep each night. Many of the health benefits of sleep take place during NREM sleep – tissue growth and repair occurs; energy is restored and hormones that are essential for growth and development are released.

REM sleep occupies 20–25 percent of total sleep each night. REM sleep, when dreaming occurs, is essential to our minds for processing and consolidating emotions, memories and stress. It is also thought to be vital for learning, stimulating the brain regions used in learning and developing new skills.

If the REM and NREM cycles are interrupted multiple times throughout the night — either due to snoring, difficulties breathing or waking up frequently throughout the night — then we miss out on vital body processes, which can affect our health and well-being.

Lack of sleep can leave you feeling drowsy, irritable or sometimes depressed. You may struggle to take in new information at work. It can be more difficult to remember things or to make decisions. Lack of sleep has even been proven to lead to craving more unhealthy foods which can result in weight gain.

If this happens night after night, it places a tremendous strain on your nervous system, body and overall health. If you are not sleeping well or aren’t feeling rested when you wake up in the morning, make an appointment to talk to your doctor. After all, according to an old Irish Proverb, a long sleep and a good laugh are the best cures in the doctor’s book!

The Perry County Health Department is working to keep you healthy where you live, work and play. For more information on our programs contact us at 740-342-5179, like us on Facebook or visit our webpage at www.perryhealth.com.

Deborah Raney is a weekly contributor to The Perry County Tribune.

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