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Sleep is a reversible state of decreased responsiveness and activity defined by changes in a person’s brain wave activity. Sleep is actually a very active process that involves a number of physiologic changes in organs of the body. Research has shown that sleep is needed for many important functions, including formation of memories, release of important hormones such as those for growth and appetite, and muscle repair, but the main purpose of sleep is currently unknown.
Think about all the factors that can interfere with a good night’s sleep — from work stress and family responsibilities to unexpected challenges, such as illnesses.
It’s no wonder that quality sleep is sometimes elusive.
While you might not be able to control the factors that interfere with your sleep, you can adopt habits that encourage better sleep.
If you wake up feeling refreshed after 6 hours of sleep, then that is what your body might need every night.
Keeping a sleep diary may help you determine what is affecting your sleep.
Sleep Deprivation and Sleep Debt
The amount of sleep a person needs also goes up if they’ve missed sleep in previous days. If you don’t have enough, you’ll have a “sleep debt,” which is much like being overdrawn at a bank.
Eventually, your body will demand that you start to repay the debt.
Signs of Sleep Deprivation
Common signs that you haven’t gotten enough sleep include:
- Feeling sleepy during the day, especially during calm activities like sitting in a movie theater or sitting in traffic
- Falling asleep within 5 minutes of lying down
- Short periods of sleep during waking hours (microsleeps)
- Mood changes
- Being unable to focus on a task
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