Getting enough sleep is an under-valued but crucial part of learning. Contrary to students’ belief that staying up all night to cram for an exam will lead to higher scores, truth is, the need for a good night’s rest is even more important than finishing homework or studying for a test.
Bears have the right idea! Winter is a time for slowing down, spending time in a cozy den, sleeping more. We, on the other hand, tend to ramp up the activity at this time of year, getting in all of our holiday shopping, running around town, squeezing in as much as we possibly can in each 24-hour period. It's a little counterintuitive.
As a society we have a hard time giving “rest” a place of value. Do you feel guilty if you haven't gotten a certain amount checked off on your to-do list? Would you proudly announce to friends and coworkers that you took a nap in the middle of the afternoon–unless it was to emphasize just how much you've been doing lately and how little you've been sleeping?
Sleep happens in several stages, with each phase serving a particular purpose. The human body takes care of its physical needs first. Quickly passing through stages one and two, which are brief, the body settles into several hours of stage three and four sleep. During these stages, neurons in the brain have synchronized into a regular rhythm and the body begins to repair itself. The immune system is restored, muscles and cardiovascular systems are rejuvenated and the positive effects on metabolism and muscle growth from exercise take effect.
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