This article appears in Winter Healthy Living 2020.

People know that sleep is vital for well-being, fitness and productivity, but many do not prioritize it. The new year is the perfect time to set new sleep goals.

Good sleep is necessary for good health. It’s good for your brain and body. A new review of more than 130 studies published in the January issue of Physiology found that getting enough sleep allows the brain to store and recall memories for future use. Adequate sleep is needed so the brain can learn new information, store it long-term and then remember it later when needed.

“It’s important to keep in mind that sleep affects the whole body, as the brain is not isolated from the body,” said Lisa Marshall, professor of behavioral neurobiology at the University of Lübeck, Germany, and one of the researchers who reviewed the studies.

During normal sleep, hormones are released that affect the organs and cells of the body, studies showed.

“For instance, it has been found that chronic sleep deprivation leads to weight gain. A night of sleep loss after a vaccination leads to the vaccination being less efficient,” Marshall said.

The studies uncovered amazing insights into the way the brain works. Have you ever wondered about waking up right before the alarm clock rings?

“This does reflect the brain keeping track of time while you sleep,” Marshall said. “For instance, when subjects sleeping in the laboratory were told on one night that they would be awakened at a specific time in the morning, certain hormone concentrations commenced about an hour before awakening as compared to when the subjects were told they could sleep out.”

Let’s get back to the brain and how it affects memory consolidation. Both animal and human studies indicate that the brain is cleared of waste products during sleep, especially deep slow-wave sleep, which could contribute to neurodegenerative diseases, Marshall said.

Gadgets that claim to help people get better sleep are widespread, but may not work for everyone, Marshall said.

“Not only do brain rhythms reveal large differences from person to person, but there are still many, in part unknown factors, presently under investigation, which contribute to efficacy of such memory enhancements,” she said.

Dedicating yourself to new sleep solutions can help improve the quantity and quality of your sleep. Here are a few tips from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine:

• Adults should sleep seven or more hours every night.

• Ages 1 to 2 should sleep 11 to 14 hours (including naps).

• Ages 3 to 5 should sleep 10 to 13 hours (including naps).

• Ages 6 to 12 should sleep 9 to 12 hours.

• Ages 13 to 18 should sleep 8 to 10 hours.

• Disrupted sleep isn’t as restorative as quality sleep, so get rid of electronic distractions in the bedroom by silencing or turning off your cell phone and TV. Power down devices at least 30 minutes before bedtime.

• Avoid alcohol, caffeine and tobacco. Eating a large meal or exercising before bed might also make it more difficult to sleep.

• Maintain a comfortable setting for sleep by keeping your bedroom dark and at a cool temperature conducive to sleep.