According to the Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School, it is more difficult to take in new information after a night of inadequate or poor sleep and, surprisingly, it is just as important to get a good night’s sleep after learning something new in order to process and retain that information. Also, undisturbed sleep is very important when learning new skills that require motor coordination and performance (athletic skills, work skills)
Poor, or disturbed sleep can result in long-term negative health consequences. Study after study shows there is a high degree of correlation between poor sleep and incidences of obesity, diabetes, heart disease and hypertension, mood disorders, alcohol usage and lower life expectancy.
Healthy sleep plays a critical role in all of our lives. Investigators concluded that sleep deprivation played a key role in the nuclear accident at 3-Mile Island, at the nuclear melt-down at Chernobyl, the Exxon Valdez oil spill and the Challenger disaster. Doctors that are sleep deprived are responsible for medical errors that result in tens of thousands of deaths each year. Untold traffic accidents each year are a result of drivers that are drowsy or fall asleep at the wheel.
According to the National Institutes of Health, the average adult sleeps less than 7 hours per night. In today's fast-paced society, 6 or 7 hours of sleep may sound pretty good. In reality, it's a recipe for chronic sleep deprivation.
While sleep requirements vary slightly from person to person, most healthy adults need between 7.5 to 9 hours of sleep per night to function at their best. Children and teens need even more (see box at right). And despite the notion that sleep needs decrease with age, older people still need at least 7.5 to 8 hours of sleep. Since older adults often have trouble sleeping this long at night, daytime naps can help fill in the gap.