Quality sleep is crucial for good health. While that statement may be a truism, why do so many people underestimate the importance of good sleep habits? Not until the 1990’s did medical research focus on what appeared obvious to parents and teachers. Teenagers’ sleep patterns differ from those of adults. They stay up later and waken later. Thus, early morning school times are detrimental to them on several levels. In fact, the introductory statement for a national movement to alter the daily school schedule, Startschoollater.net, makes the point clearly:  Many schools start too early in the morning to allow students to get the sleep they need​— and that’s taking a toll on their health, safety, and learning. ​ 

Sleepiness deters learning, affects school attendance, and can result in depression.   On the basis of that information, in 1997 the seven comprehensive high schools in the Minneapolis Public School District shifted the school start times from 7:15 a. m. to 8:40 am .The schools  found significant benefits such as improved attendance and enrollment rates, less sleeping in class, and less student-reported depression.  The results are encouraging,so local chapters of the movement are emerging throughout the nation.. 

Of course, poor sleep affects adults as well. Research findings suggesting that sleep loss and anxiety are closely linked were presented at Neuroscience 2018.  Sleep is essential for brain health and memory.  Specifically, REM (rapid eye movement) sleep is crucial for the nervous and immune systems. Research presented found that brain activity after periods of sleep deprivation mirrors brain activity indicative of anxiety disorders. The amygdala—seat of the brain’s fight or flight response—is particularly “aroused” when we haven’t slept enough.

However, “sleep therapy” can alleviate the anxiety caused by sleep reduction. For some, these symptoms appear reversible with as little as one good night’s sleep “For healthy people, research shows that one night of recovery sleep brings systems back online and brings anxiety levels back to normal,” added Dr. Ben-Simon.

So the  take-away message- Get a good night’s sleep, and grab a pillow and take a nap whenever possible.