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Who needs sleep? You do

If you don't think sleeping is a productive thing to do, try going without it for a few days.

You'll get confused, sloppy, forgetful and cranky.

No doubt about it, we need sleep. It helps us do better at work and at home. It puts us in a better position to deal with stress. And it makes us easier to be around.

Why do we need it?

Researchers are still working out the reasons why we sleep and what it does for us, says the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS).

However, animal studies show that sleep is necessary for survival. Research in rats, for example, shows that those deprived of sleep live only about three weeks, while those that sleep normally live up to three years.

Some experts believe sleep gives neurons in our brains a chance to shut down and repair themselves. And in children and young adults, sleep coincides with the release of hormones vital to growth.

How much should I get?

While the ideal amount of sleep varies from person to person, most adults do best on about eight hours per night, the National Sleep Foundation (NSF) reports. You may require more or less.

If you don't get the amount you need, you may accrue a "sleep debt." This means your body must make up for all the hours of sleep you missed. In the meantime, you're susceptible to impaired judgment, slowed reaction time and other problems that go along with not getting enough rest.

According to the NINDS, just feeling drowsy during the day may be a sign of sleep debt. Another possible sign is routinely zonking out within five minutes of going to bed.

Getting the sleep you need

To make sure you don't rack up a debt, try following these good sleep tips from the NSF:

Stick to a schedule. Go to bed and get up at the same times each day, even on weekends. This helps establish a healthful sleep cycle.

Stay fit. Regular exercise can help you sleep better. But don't do it in the three hours before you go to bed. Your body needs a chance to cool down and relax.

Avoid caffeine, nicotine and alcohol. All of these can interfere with sleep.

Relax before bed. Take a warm bath or read a book.

Don't just lie there. If you just can't fall asleep, get out of bed and do something relaxing until you feel tired.

Get help. See your doctor if you regularly have problems getting enough sleep.

reviewed 3/12/2019

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