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Why Sleep Matters

Sleep and Memory (1:10)

Robert Stickgold, PhD, of Harvard, tells how sleep helps you learn facts and remember them.

Sleep is an important, everyday activity that our bodies need to function. It can be tough when there doesn’t seem to be enough hours in the day to meet work and non-work demands. Many aspects of modern-day life can also interfere with our ability to get enough sleep. These include the increased use of artificial lighting, 24-hour cable television and Internet availability, and a global economy that requires an around-the-clock workforce. Savvy railroaders make sleep a priority because they know that sleep matters.

Here’s why sleep is so vital to our bodies: 

Sleep affects how we feel

Well-rested adults should feel alert and have an upbeat mood. Research shows that healthy sleep can boost one's sense of well-being, while poor or inadequate sleep may cause irritability and stress. After a day or two of not getting enough sleep, most people recognize that they feel cranky, foggy, and clumsy. People who get less sleep than they need often complain of feeling wiped out.

Sleep helps us function

When we get enough sleep, our minds are ready to make decisions, remember things, and react quickly when necessary. People who have not slept enough have trouble with concentration, memory, and other aspects of complex thinking. If people miss sleep several days in a row, these problems typically increase. Sleepy people often do not realize how fatigued they are, and how poorly they perform at work or behind the wheel.

Sleep is linked to our health

Our bodies need time to rest and repair from the “wear and tear” of our daily activities. Research has shown that people who average less than seven hours’ sleep per day have a higher risk of developing serious medical disorders than those who sleep seven hours or more. This can include problems such as diabetes, obesity, heart and blood vessel disease, stroke and mood disorders such as depression.