Scientists are always conducting new studies about just how important a good night’s sleep is, both for our physical and mental wellbeing. Just in case you needed any extra reasons to get your forty winks, here are just some of the health benefits that a good night’s sleep can bring.
Though it may seem like you are not doing all that much while you sleep, your mind is actually busy processing all the events of the day. In a process called ‘consolidation’, the memories or practice skills that you learnt during the day are reinforced in your mind. That means that if you are trying to learn something new, sleep can help cement the information that you need in your mind. There’s a reason people say it’s not a good idea to stay up all night before an exam cramming in all the information instead of getting valuable shut-eye! If you’ve got a big day ahead of you, the best way you can tackle it is with sleep.
Many top performing athletes get upwards of 10 hours sleep a night in the build up to a big game. Though you’re probably not quite at this level, a good night’s sleep can still probably improve your performance! Studies have shown that a decent amount of sleep can improve stamina and reduce daytime fatigue. How many times have you decided not to get your exercise because you were too tired? And the truth is that it can become a vicious cycle. People who get a decent amount of exercise generally find it easier to drift off at night. If you are trying to hit a certain goal or personal best, it seems that sleep is your fast track to doing this.
Increase Attention Span
If you are trying to help your kids improve their grades at school, making sure they get an early night should be your first priority. Whereas adults tend to feel sluggish and lethargic when we don’t get the sleep we need, it generally has the opposite effect on kids. They tend to get overly hyperactive and find it very difficult to concentrate on any tasks. And also remember that kids tend to need more sleep than adults, so the definition of a good night’s sleep tends to vary between you and your children. When it comes to your own attention span, you certainly need that extra hour or two in bed to improve your alertness and therefore lengthen your own attention span.
Maintain A Healthy Weight
Many of us find that it is an ongoing battle to keep at a healthy weight. And it turns out that a huge amount of the battle is fought from the comfort of your own bed! A study was conducted at the University of Chicago which found that dieters who were more well rested lost a significantly bigger fat percentage than those who were sleep deprived. It was also found that those who weren’t getting enough sleep were losing muscle mass (so if you’re trying to tone up, getting your sleep is also hugely important!). During this study, dieters reported feeling hungrier when they weren’t getting as much sleep. It can be a very difficult balancing act to make sure you are getting enough sleep while also finding enough hours in the day to work out as well!
Reducing the amount of stress in our lives is something that many of us are looking to achieve. Both stress and sleep are intrinsically linked as they both impact our cardiovascular health. Sleep equips us with the mental tools that we need to keep our stress levels down. It has also been linked to blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
However, if we feel extremely stressed, it can be difficult to make sure our bodies switch off to get the rest that we need. Try getting into a bedtime routine that prepares you for sleep. Spend some time destressing yourself in whatever way works best for you; whether this is a bubble bath, yoga or listening to music. Consider cutting back on your screen time when you are approaching bedtime. Watching TV or playing on a laptop has been found to disrupt melatonin production which is an important sleep hormone. This can be a particular problem for kids as they tend to want to stay connected to all their different devices as long as possible. It may be that you need to put some pretty strict rules in place in order to get them out of these bad habits.
Getting your bedroom just right is important so find out how to choose the right down pillow for a restful sleep. Also think about how comfortable your mattress is and whether you have enough blankets to keep you warm during the night. Try to keep your bedtime routine the same every night so that your body naturally begins to prepare itself for sleep.
The link between tiredness and road accidents is clear which is why there are so many campaigns trying to stop people from driving when they feel tired. A lack of sleep tends reduce reaction time as well as impacting decision making. This means that numerous everyday tasks are affected by not getting enough sleep. If you work in a job that requires a high degree of concentration, getting a good night’s sleep should be your first priority.
Reduce Risk of Depression
Like stress, depression is another area of our mental wellbeing that is significantly affected by lack of sleep. People who are well rested tend to be more emotionally stable and feel more balanced. The chance of mood swings is significantly increased if you don’t get the sleep you need. We’ve all experienced a sudden rush of anger or sadness simply from not getting our eight hours at night. Anxiety can also be increased, making us feel uneasy about all sorts of aspects of our lives.
Linked to heart disease, strokes, diabetes and arthritis, inflammation can be extremely damaging to our health. Getting enough sleep has been found to curb this. On the other side of the coin, people who get fewer than six hours of sleep a night tend to have higher blood levels of inflammatory proteins.
Though there is still a lot of research that goes into this area, studies have started making the link between people who sleep more and people who live longer. Older people often tend to have different sleeping patterns that involve not getting as much during the night but needing to take naps during the day. Quality of life is also generally reduced by not getting enough sleep.
So, it’s pretty clear to see that getting enough sleep is hugely important. If you’ve considered pushing sleep to the back of your list of priorities, it may well be time to rethink! All the tasks that you have the next day are much more likely to be tacked well if you get the sleep that you need.