The constant rush of modern society has caused people to start treating sleep like a resource rather than a necessity. Some feel that by trading in a couple hours of sleep they are better able to finish those last-minute projects, watch one more episode, or stay out late without any consequences. This is simply not true.
Sleep is not only necessary for proper bodily function and health but it also offers several additional benefits. The following six areas benefit greatly from improved sleep. Knowing the positive impact of sleep on your wellness and overall ability may provide the motivation needed to make sleep a priority.
1) Better Cognitive Function
To complete tasks and fulfill our daily responsibilities the mind must be able to understand information and respond appropriately. Even activities as simple as driving or interacting with other people require proper cognitive function. If one is suffering from a sleep deficit, this can be challenging. For example, in 2009 The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that the greatest contributor to fatal single-car run-off-the-road crashes was groggy and/or tired drivers. Clearly sleep plays an important role in attentiveness and response time if it is beating alcohol as a major cause of car accidents. If you feel the need to improve your reaction time and reduce the frequency of mistakes and errors throughout the day, more sleep may be the answer.
2) Improved Memory and Learning
Many incorrectly believe the brain simply “turns off” when we are asleep. In actuality, the brain remains hard at work while the rest of the body is recuperating from the day’s activities. During this time, the brain is improving our memory and devoting practiced skills, mental or physical, to permanence in a process known as consolidation. Getting a good night’s rest after studying abstract concepts or practicing a new athletic technique can help commit them to memory. This aids in skill acquisition and makes it easier for you utilize it. Furthermore, while the body is at rest, the brain is reordering and restructuring memories and concepts which allows for improved synthesis and comprehension of learned topics.
3) Greater Mental Health
Stress and anxiety are two of the most common symptoms associated with insomnia. Decreased sleep quality and stress both feed into each other which creates a downward spiral that can ultimately lead to depression. Because sleep is so impactful on mental health it is not surprising that an estimated 90% of those with depression report difficulty sleeping. Although it can be challenging to break this cycle, getting good quality sleep is one of the best ways to resolve stress and can aid in treating depression. Because sleep is closely related to stress, which can impact heart health, regaining a healthy sleep cycle may be able to cause a ripple of improved health in other areas.
4) Helping Heart Health
Research has found that those who get less than six hours of sleep per night are significantly more likely to experience increased blood pressure and inflammation in comparison to those who get adequate sleep. High blood pressure and inflammation are two of the main causal factors of cardiovascular disease and stroke. Some studies have found that sleep may even play a role in cholesterol regulation, which also plays an important role in heart health. By declaring sleep a priority and making certain that you are getting enough every night, heart health may improve.
5) Enhanced Weight Management
Insomnia and other sleep inhibiting conditions can make it difficult for one to lose weight. Interestingly enough, one of the best ways to improve the efficacy of one’s diet is through sleeping. Improving sleep quality and duration can lower the risk of obesity and even aid in resolving weight issues. The primary reason this happens is because sleep is closely connected to the hormones ghrelin and leptin which promote sensations of hunger and fullness respectively. Inadequate sleep leads one to have increased ghrelin levels and reduced leptin. This can lead one to experience increased hunger and feel less satiated. Sleep may be a greatly beneficial in controlling one’s eating habits and cravings, which can aid in losing unwanted weight.
6) Empowered Physical Performance
In addition to aiding in weight loss through craving control, sleep also improves athletic performance and exercise. According to a Stanford University Study, college players who attempted to get 10 hours of sleep per night for 7 to 8 weeks showed improved sprinting times and reduced daytime fatigue. This echoes other studies that found similar exercise benefits among swimmers and tennis players. Improving athletic ability allows the body to better combat heart disease and burn unneeded calories. For those who regularly exercise, adequate sleep is particularly important because the body needs time to recover. Without proper sleep, physical exertion can hinder the body instead of helping it.
Prioritize Your Sleep
Not only is sleep important for restoring energy and keeping us from being grouchy all morning, it is a necessary element of good health. With the numerous mental and physical benefits that come with sleep it’s hard to believe that many are willing to trade it in for one more late night episode of a binge-worthy show. As stated by Raymonde Jean, MD, director of sleep medicine at St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital Center, “many things that we take for granted are affected by sleep. If you sleep better, you certainly live better.” If sleep seems to keep slipping out of your grasp because it doesn’t seem like a necessity, perhaps these benefits will change your mind and help motivate you to make sleep a priority.