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Our bodies need sleep to learn, work, maintain health

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Thursday, Aug. 25, 2016 7:05 PM

By Jacqueline Juliana

Bayfield Primary School

Sleep...We've all heard the saying, "You snooze, you lose!"

This upsets me. I love to sleep and can't seem to get enough. So, being in education, and being dedicated to accurate and complete information to promote wise decision making, I decided to investigate this one. Really, if "snoozing" refers to tardiness and indecision, well, maybe there's a bit of truth to it. If we're talking sleep, glorious, restorative, rejuvenating, delicious slumber, it couldn't be further from the truth. When I don't get enough sleep, I know my ability to make sound choices, keep things in perspective, and avoid rumination radically diminishes.

I've witnessed innumerable meltdowns that have preceded long, solid naps. I've even had a few meltdowns that have been prompted by lack of sleep myself. After a good night's sleep, the world looks a lot brighter and problems a bit smaller. This is fabulous in and of itself, but there is a great deal more to it.

The chapter entitled "The Lost Hour" in Po Bronson and Ashley Meriman's bestseller, NurtureShock: New Thinking About Children gets right to the heart of why sleep is so important for the health and academic success of kids of all ages.

Yes, you read correctly, sleep is vital to academic success. While we sleep, the nerve cells in our brain busily create connections to solidify skills and information we've learned during the day.

To create the connections, nerve fibers must actually make microscopic movements. Guess what? Yup, the proteins that help the nerve fibers to make these tiny movements are made while we sleep! Bronson and Meriman describe an experiment which shows the difference sleep makes is measurable and significant. When more than 70 fourth-grade and sixth-grade students were deprived of one hour of sleep, their academic performance regressed by two years. A study conducted at Brown University showed that allowing preschoolers to stay up and sleep in an hour later correlated to a loss of seven points on IQ tests. Dr. Kyla Wahlstrom at the University of Minnesota canvassed more than 7,000 high school students regarding sleep habits and grades. The outcome showed that students with C averages received 15 minutes less sleep than their B average counterparts and B average counterparts received 15 minutes less on average than the A students.

Our bodies are less able to obtain glucose from our blood when we are deprived of sleep.

This impacts the part of our brain that controls our ability to organize and complete tasks, forecast outcomes and intuit consequences of our actions more than any other part of the brain. This is discouraging, but to top this off, when we don't get enough sleep, our brains are far more able to remember and focus on the negative instead of the positive. There is only one solution: go to bed!

Knowing how vital sleep is to the quality of our lives, by helping us to maintain a positive attitude, emotionally regulate, maintain physical health, and achieve academic success, will help us to prioritize getting a good night's sleep regularly.

Here's the fabulous part: sleep is free and available to us all. A half hour or longer of downtime before bed and consistent routines at bedtime help everyone to fall and stay asleep.

I wish you all a restful good night!

Jacqueline Juliana, known as "Ms. J", is the counselor at Bayfield Primary School. She can be reached at jjuliana@bayfield.k12.co.us or 884-0881 and is happy to help families in any way she can.

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