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 | By Abby Turner | Guest Columnist

There are many benefits to good, quality sleep

We all know getting enough sleep is important, especially as we kick off the school year.

Getting adequate rest is imperative to the success of our minds and bodies. Our sleep not only affects the way our brains and bodies function the next day but can also determine the quality of our health years down the line. Good sleep habits help us process the day prior and prepare for the day coming. Lack of quality sleep has been linked to anxiety and depression, high blood pressure, slower metabolism and even decreased immunity.

St. Thomas Aquinas in his wisdom offered five remedies to sadness, the fifth of which is to bathe and sleep. Getting quality sleep at night helps our brain process the emotions and events of the day, allowing us to see our reality with more clarity in the morning. Less than six hours of sleep a night reduces our body’s ability to regulate stress and can increase our blood pressure and decrease our metabolism. Those who experience ongoing poor or disturbed sleep are more likely to develop heart disease and diabetes, according to Dr. Francisco Lopez-Jimenez at the Mayo Clinic.

Another problem caused by a lack of sleep is a decreased immune response. The production of infection-fighting antibodies, cells and proteins are all decreased when we do not get enough sleep, making it more difficult to fight off illness or infection.

Adults need 7 to 8 hours, teenagers need 9 to 10 hours, and younger children need 10 or more hours of sleep each night. Our younger ones need more sleep to develop properly. And yes, our teens have a different circadian rhythm than we do. This causes them to stay up later and sleep in longer than children and adults. Therefore, it is essential to develop good sleep habits from a young age.

To improve our quality of sleep, we need to be proactive. It can be helpful to create a “bedtime” alarm just as we have a waking alarm. This alarm notifies us when it is time to get ready for bed. This gives us time to establish a solid bedtime routine.

To promote quality sleep, it is helpful to set aside electronics and opt for a book before bed instead; this reduces our exposure to blue light and allows us to fall asleep faster.

Praying before bed helps our mind wind down and creates a sense of calm. The repetition of the prayers of the rosary promotes peace as it slows our breathing and calms our minds.

As we begin the new school year, let’s help ourselves and our little ones get quality sleep, which will promote health now and for years to come.

Abby Turner is the director of Ethics and Integrity in Ministry for the Diocese of Austin. She studied allied health and psychology at Texas A&M University. When not at work, she enjoys reading, running and exploring Austin.