We all know the importance of healthy living, such as eating a good diet and reducing stress.

But are we as aware of the need for a good night’s sleep?

According to an animal study carried out by the University of Wisconsin-Madison, teenagers who do not get enough shut-eye each night could suffer from reduced brain development.

The experiment found that short-term sleep restriction in mice prevents balanced growth and depletion of brain synapses, which are the connections between nerve cells that allow our bodies to communicate internally.

Researcher Dr Chiara Cirelli commented: "One possible implication of our study is that if you lose too much sleep during adolescence, especially chronically, there may be lasting consequences in terms of the wiring of the brain.

"Adolescence is a sensitive period of development during which the brain changes dramatically. There is a massive remodelling of nerve circuits, with many new synapses formed and then eliminated," she noted.

The professor pointed out that the results of the study show that time spent asleep or awake affects the number of synapses being formed or removed in teenage brains.

"It could be that the changes are benign, temporary and reversible, or there could be lasting consequences for brain maturation and functioning," Dr Cirelli added.

With this in mind, parents might want to encourage their offspring to get at least eight hours of sleep every night, which may involve turning off electrical gadgets before going to bed in order to relax, or taking herbal supplements to ensure they unwind properly before nodding off.

Of course, it is difficult to get enough sleep if your mattress is uncomfortable, so individuals might find themselves getting on better with a memory foam mattress.

A spokesman for bed specialist Teme Valley recently noted that memory foam can give support to weary bodies, which helps protect the spine.

"If you have better support then you will sleep better and you will move less. Also, especially if you have got a bad back, then it is very good for you," the representative added.

Posted by Freya Harper