The natural order of things in life is activity, fatigue, and then rest. It is seldom possible for the body to throw off waste materials promptly during work or play. Thus they increase slowly until the time comes when the whole body needs rest. This explains why it is necessary to sleep every night and why it is restful to sleep following any form of strenuous activity during the day. When a person sleeps his body is fully relaxed, but breathing and circulation of the blood continue. Thus the waste materials are carried away, and the cells of his body grow and renew their strength. The cells in turn build up the tissues and his whole body is in better condition.
Good conditions for sleep.
If a person is to get the most good out of his sleep, he must have favorable conditions for rest. First, the bed must be comfortable. It should be soft but firm enough to hold the body in a good sleeping position. The body should not sink down in places but should remain straight, as when a person is standing. The springs should not be lower in some places than in others, and the mattress should be smooth, soft, and firm. The covers should be only as heavy as necessary to keep the body warm. If they are too heavy, they will press against the body, causing discomfort and preventing good, restful sleep.
Second, the sleeping room should be quiet. If possible, it should be on the side of the house away from the street. Third, the sleeping room should be well ventilated. This is necessary to supply the lungs with fresh air. Fourth, a person should sleep alone if possible. When two people occupy the same bed, they cannot rest so well as when each sleeps alone. The body should always be stretched out at full length and be free to turn. Also, when one person sleeps with another, there is danger of catching such a disease as a cold. Fifth, a person should always go to the toilet before going to bed. This makes room for the waste materials that form during the night and thus makes him comfortable as he sleeps. If possible, he should also take a warm bath. This not only cleans the skin but tends to quiet the nerves. Sixth, a person should think about going to sleep rather than about the things he has done or expects to do. At least he should relieve his mind of all serious problems. A quiet mind always helps the body to rest.
The amount of sleep needed.
The amount of sleep needed varies with a person’s age. Children need much more sleep than adults, because it is during sleep that they do most of their growing. The following table shows about how much sleep is needed at different ages:
4 to 6 years – 13 to 15 hours daily
6 to 8 years – 12 to 13 hours daily
8 to 10 years – 11 1/2 to 12 hours daily
10 to 12 years – 11 to 11 1/2 hours daily
12 to 14 years – 10 to 10 1/2 hours daily
14 to 16 years – 9 1/2 to 10 hours daily
16 to 18 years – 9 to 9 1/2 hours daily
Sleep is as necessary for the body as are food and exercise. Since this is the case, a person should plan his hours of sleep just as he plans his hours of work or play. He should make sure that he gets plenty of sleep and that the conditions for sleeping are as good as he can make them.