Sleep. Ah, the blessed bliss of a good night's rest. It is the body's natural and necessary downtime that refreshes, repairs and rejuvenates.
According to www.sleepfoundation.org, it is during sleep that body tissue and muscles are repaired, hormones are released and energy is restored. A good night's sleep is also believed to contribute to a healthy immune system and balanced appetite.
Why then, do we continually deprive ourselves of the precious gift of sleep and all of its benefits? It's true that there really is no ''magic number'' of hours of sleep that is right for each and every person, but it is generally believed that adults should get between seven and eight hours each night.
A lack of sleep can contribute to serious health problems like heart disease, obesity and diabetes and is also linked to decreased reaction times, attention and memory deficits and psychiatric disorders. Some think they simply don't have time to get the sleep they need or maybe have convinced themselves that they can get by on much less than necessary.
Then there are those who desperately yearn for seven precious hours of undisturbed slumber but, for whatever reason, just can't seem to get it. This columnist unfortunately belongs in the latter category.
Insomnia, or the inability to fall asleep or stay asleep, reportedly plagues over 70 million Americans each year, or one out of every three people (I wonder which number I am? Maybe I'll ponder that one tonight while I'm staring at the ceiling instead of sleeping.)
So, why can't we fall asleep? After consulting with my wise-beyond-her-years teenage daughter, we decided the reasons vary depending upon your stage of life.
As a young child, one may not sleep for fear of monsters under the bed or from the anticipation of a birthday or the first day of school. As for teens, my daughter reports that troubles with friends and the impending doom of ''picture day'' were causes for her recent bouts of sleeplessness. Young adults may forgo sleep to pull an ''all-nighter'' prior to college exams. New parents rarely obtain enough sleep from plenty of middle-of-the-night feedings and changings, that is, until their infant falls into his own little sleep routine.
The middle-aged often lose sleep as they worry over kids, careers and finances. As I see it, those getting the best night's sleep ought to be the senior citizens. Houses are paid for and kids are grown and on their own, alleviating two of life's biggest stressors. If I'm wrong on this, I'm sure I'll hear about it.
My father is a very wise man. If I mention to him that I haven't slept well, he looks as me, sometimes raises an eyebrow and poses one of his favorite ''dadisms'' ... ''So which didn't you have? A tired body or a clear conscience?''
I suppose there's some truth to that, but if only it were that simple. I recall one very strange episode of sleeplessness that lasted for four days. It occurred at the age of 28 as I attended a summer school accounting class. I remember, although not for lack of trying, I was unable to even accomplish a nap and walked around in a zombie-like state for what seemed like months. I still cannot tell you what caused it, or ended it, for that matter.
As elusive as it can be to the insomniac, sleep is a precious commodity to be cherished and appreciated. ''Family nap time'' on Sunday afternoons is a tradition we've practiced since my kids were very small. I still enjoy it immensely even if they have gone and outgrown it.
Good sleep to you all, but please wait until you've finished reading this. It is time to bring this week's column to a close as it is past my bedtime. Wish me luck.
Weatherman is a Trumbull County resident. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.