In our busy daily routines there just doesn’t seem to be enough time to get everything done. We have to balance commitments at work with time set aside for our families. We desire time for ourselves yet we are distracted by television and social media. We may have hobbies, or do sports, or enjoy partying, or just prefer to hang out with friends. To enable all of this, cutting back on sleep seems to be the easy solution.

Yet sleep is not optional in our lives. Surprisingly, scientists don’t know the exact reason why we need sleep, even though they have conducted much research into the subject. We assume that sleep strengthens the connections between the brain cells formed during our daily activities, and that it helps flush out unneeded sensory data and memories. Sleep refreshes our brain and our body, as if we have just re-booted our mental and physical systems.

While we may not know the scientific reason why we need to sleep, the side effects of not sleeping are quite clear. Not getting enough sleep will make us less alert, irritable, and depressed. Lack of sleep could lead to impaired memory, stress, and a low libido. When we have a chronic sleep shortage, we may end up gaining weight and be more susceptible to illnesses. Drivers who don’t get enough sleep are more likely to be involved in accidents.

Sleep deprivation will also affect our ability to learn. The night before exams in school we are encouraged to “get a good night’s sleep” and apparently there is a real reason for someone to say this.

Getting enough sleep is as important to our health as getting the right nutrition and enough physical exercise. Yet according to some studies, the quality of sleep we get is more important than the quantity of sleep. A good night’s sleep depends, in part, on keeping a regular schedule of going to bed at the same time every night. Worrying over your daily problems leads to fitful sleep patterns, which certainly don’t contribute to quality sleep. Sleeping pills should be avoided as they may become addictive and less effective over time.

And there is one additional reason for getting a good night’s sleep. The University of Warwick conducted a study recently that determined that improved sleep quality makes a person feel as good as someone who won a huge prize playing the lottery. If you were to win a jackpot prize playing the American Mega Millions lottery you would feel very good indeed, and you would have a similar good feeling if you just woke up from a good night’s sleep.

Despite the university’s conclusion, many of us would prefer to win a lottery jackpot than to get enough quality sleep. Yet sleep is not only beneficial, but also essential to our lives. If we were lucky enough to win the lottery, it would ease our financial burdens. But if that happened, we would still need to get a good night’s sleep.

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