We’ve all heard about the importance of sleep. In fact, we’ve been hearing it our whole lives. Even though we know it makes everything better, we still struggle as a society to get enough sleep. According to the American Sleep Association, 35.3% of Americans report less than seven hours of sleep in a 24-hour period, which falls short of the recommended nightly quota of 7-9 hours for adults. That means that ⅓ of us aren’t well-rested, and we’re missing out on a lot of the good stuff in the life.
So why should we care so much about sleep? While your mind shuts down and rests, your body does the work to repair and restore its cells. It’s actually an active period for the body, which is why it’s important to feel comfortable and relaxed throughout the night. As your body cycles through the important stages of sleep, an interruption in sleep can mean your body needs to restart the sleep cycle, hindering the work your body has already put in.
Without further ado, we give you 22 great reasons to prioritize sleep. Plus — so you’ll have no excuses — we also added in 5 tips for sleeping better. Read to the end to kick start your sleep health and general success in life.
Researchers have linked sleeping less than five hours per night with a decrease in life expectancy for some time. In one study, according to Very Well Health, researchers followed sets of twins around for more than 22 years. By the end of the study, they were able to determine that those who slept less than seven hours per night had an increased risk of death by 17%.
If you’re trying to prevent weight gain, there are scientific reasons to make sure you’re well-rested. According to Everyday Health, “People who don’t get enough sleep have lower levels of leptin (the ‘satiety’ hormone) and higher levels of ghrelin (the ‘hunger’ hormone).” This leads to poor appetite regulation within your body and causes you to want to eat more.
Sleep is absolutely essential for the brain’s primary functions: cognition and concentration. While negative sleep can cause a similar reaction as alcohol intoxication, good sleep can actually boost your ability to focus, be productive, and perform well.
While getting an excessive amount of sleep might not necessarily ward off chronic illness, not getting enough sleep can certainly have a major impact on health. According to Healthline, people who don’t get enough sleep will have a much greater risk of both heart disease and stroke than those who sleep more than the recommended 7-8 hours per night.
Getting amazing rest has been shown to actually increase athletic performance. Healthline writes, “In a study on basketball players, more sleep was shown to significantly improve speed, accuracy, reaction times, and mental wellbeing.” On the reverse side, sleeping less has been shown to decrease performance.
According to Healthline, sleep can have a big impact on blood sugar levels. For individuals who sleep less than six hours per night, studies have shown an increased risk of type 2 diabetes. In a study of healthy young men, getting only four hours per night of sleep actually resulted in symptoms of prediabetes after just six nights. After sleeping normally for one week afterward, the symptoms reversed themselves.
Perhaps we can all attest to the fact that sleep is just as important for your mental health as it is for your physical health. When you’re exhausted, it’s difficult to find the energy to feel excited or happy. But did you know that poor sleep has even been linked to suicide? Another sobering statistic estimates that 90% of people with depression complain about sleep quality.
If you’re running yourself ragged and not getting the rest you need, you may find that your immune system has lowered some of its defenses. According to WebMD, although the relationship between sleep and the immune system does have more complications than we’ve been led to believe, lack of sleep actually suppresses your immune system.
Inflammation is a normal immune response in the body that, when it persists, can be harmful and even lead to diseases. According to Thrive Global on Medium, there is a strong relationship between ongoing inflammation and sleep — individuals who experience sleep-related illnesses also experience more inflammation. This inflammation can exacerbate chronic illnesses, as well as pain.
We’ve all felt like we’re going crazy at times when we’re a little low on sleep. According to an article in Medscape Psychiatry, research has found that the brain’s ability to regulate its own emotional reactions is weakened when sleep is low. The amygdala, which alerts the body when it senses danger, is overactive when you’re exhausted, making it 60% more reactive to stressors.
No-brainer alert! When you don’t sleep well, you don’t feel as cheerful, or even as happy. According to Healthy Sleep, a publication of Harvard Medical School, the impacts of sleeplessness on mood happen quickly, even over a one-week period. As soon as sleep returns to normal, the mood is usually restored.
For a strong memory, it’s important to get adequate rest. When you sleep, your brain consolidates your memories from the day, making it easier to store them and intake new ones. Not getting enough sleep will impair your ability to focus and learn efficiently.
We know that sleep helps your brain work more efficiently and take in information better, but what about creativity? A May 2018 article in The Atlantic highlights new research from Penny Lewis at Cardiff University have come up with a new theory that recognizes the two phases of sleep as the key to problem solving.
It’s a catch-22: stress hinders sleep, but sleep is what Nanette E. Tummers calls “the ultimate stress management tool” in an excerpt from her book, Stress Management. “Sleep not only helps the body repair itself,” she writes, “But it also helps the brain assimilate all the new information we have taken in.” If the body doesn’t get enough sleep, the brain won’t be able to make new brain cells, which is essential for cognitive function.
When you’re behind the wheel of a car, sleepiness is more than a small problem. In 2009, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported that sleepiness was the primary cause of fatal single-car run-off-the-road crashes where the fault was attributed to the driver — even above alcohol.
High blood pressure can have a big impact on a person’s health, leading to a greater risk of heart attack, stroke, kidney disease, or even dementia. According to Sheldon G. Sheps, M.D., of the Mayo Clinic, those who sleep between five and six hours of sleep per night do in fact also have an increased risk of high blood pressure.
When it comes to pain management, especially in reference to chronic pain, sleep may be the most important, according to the Rheumatologist. While interrupted sleep can hinder the body’s ability to manage pain, good sleep hygiene can help you manage pain more effectively.
Want to be more intelligent, or at least achieve better intellectual performance? Research indicates that taking naps before learning can help you more easily retain information, providing a “learning boost.” Researchers attribute this to the non-rapid eye movement phase of sleep, which is different to previous research that suggests that dreaming helps lock in memories after sleep.
This one seems like a long shot, but can sleep improve your marriage? Of course! If you’re feeling irritable, reactionary, or emotional, this is bound to take a toll on your partner — and vice versa. And according to Marriage.com, studies have shown that couples whose sleep habits are more in tune are often more satisfied with their marriages.
The effects of poor sleep are far-reaching. According to Tonic, a publication of Vice News, sleep and sex are linked in that problems with either of them tend to have similar underlying causes. And of course, a lack of sleep can result in sexual problems, while a lack of sex can lead to problems sleeping.
Don’t forget to get your beauty rest! This saying rings true, according to many experts online. WebMD even calls it “the closest thing to the fountain of youth.” Because your body repairs itself and produces new cells while you sleep, as well as boosts blood flow and reduces inflammation, your skin will appear fresher and more hydrated with extra hours of sleep.
It’s impossible to cover all the ways that getting great sleep can improve your life. The truth is, it affects us in all areas of life. So how can do we get more of it? It’s not easy, but for starters, try following these 5 simple steps.
Human brains used to rely on a natural circadian rhythm to know when to shut down and sleep. Maintaining a regular schedule so that your body knows when it’s time to unplug will help you fall asleep more quickly at night.
Bright and artificial lights make your brain think it’s daytime, which will cause it to become more alert, even if you’re tired. Avoid using your cell phone, tablet, or TV for at least an hour before bed, and you’ll find you’re able to fall asleep more easily.
Caffeine can last for hours in your system, so even if you had your last cup of coffee before noon, it could still be taking a toll on your sleep. Experiment with limiting caffeine consumption if insomnia is a problem.
Research suggests that those who exercise during the day fall asleep more easily and sleep more restfully. Make sure you move your body and sweat at least once per day and keep a regular workout schedule to sleep more deeply.
It’s not so easy to fall asleep when you use your bed throughout the day for reading, working on the computer, or even watching TV. When you reserve your bedroom just for sleeping and intimacy, as well as choose a comfortable mattress and luxurious bedding, finally going to bed will feel like a restful treat at the end of each day.
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