In the history of doctors not a single one has said “Sleep is for the weak.” As much as some people tote the 5 hour sleep schedule, there is a pile of evidence that getting some good shut eye is helpful for both your health and your well-being. According to the National Sleep Foundation, it is recommended that adults between the ages of 26 and 64 get about 7 to 9 hours of sleep every night. However that’s not the case for so many people. In fact a third of the American adult population don’t get that amount of sleep.
No matter what people tell you, if you start digging into the research, you’ll discover that there is literally no aspect of our health and well-being that is not affected by how we sleep. Everything from weight management to our own mental stability and even our work life. Below we share 13 reasons why getting enough sleep can very well change your life for the better paired up with expert tips on how you can sleep better.
Boosts Heart Health
If you’re someone who doesn’t get a lot of sleep, you may be putting your own heart at risk. A study from the University of Gothenburg in Sweden revealed that middle-aged men who sleep five hours or less each night are twice as likely of developing major cardiovascular events. They compare that research to men who sleep between seven and eight hours.
And while you think sleep is great, too much of it can be dangerous as well. According to a research led by McMaster University in Ontario, Canada, those who sleep over eight to nine hours on a regular basis are 5-percent more likely to suffer from a major cardiovascular events, compared to those sleeping six to eight hours.
Sleep tip: Strive to balance your sleep schedule by avoiding anything caffeinated or even soda after 3 pm. According to sleep specialist Whitney Roban, consuming those beverages after that time can have a negative effect on your sleep at night.
Studies have also shown that a brain that’s well-rested can outperform a brain that is tired. This is regardless of how much study time was done. The thing with sleep in cases of school studies is that it allows us to lock information we recently gathered. By sleeping, our brain is storing that data into a long-term memory part of itself. And it’s that part of our brain that plays a crucial role in us learning new skills as well.
According to a study done by Northwestern University, people found that they were able to adopt a new tune after taking a 90-minute nap. In the study, the participants were asked to play two artificially generated musical tunes by pressing a series of keys. After that, researchers started to play one of the tunes that they practiced while they were napping. After the nap, the researchers asked the participants to play both of the tunes that they practiced. Out of those results, the participants were able to make fewer mistakes to the one they listened to while napping as opposed to the one that they spent time practicing, but not listening to.
Sleep tip: As much as naps are great, the human body isn’t quite designed for them. You and I work on a day and night cycle and it’s vital that we sleep at night and be up during the day. While sometimes you need a nap, do your best to avoid or reduce the frequency of daytime naps.
Improves Weight Management
If you’ve gone to a gym or you’ve taken up a specific diet, it may have mentioned something about sleep in there and for a good reason. Sleep is actually a crucial part of weight management, as more research is coming up that reveals that there is a strong link between inadequate sleep and obesity. Getting less than six hours of sleep each night can affect your BMI (body mass index) dramatically, as sleep helps in regulating our appetite, stabilizes glucose metabolism and steadies our blood pressure. Not getting enough sleep will skew those systems.
In one extensive review, a study looked at children and adults who had short sleep durations. From the study they revealed that they were respectively 89 percent and 55 percent more likely to be obese.
The numbers are quite high because sleep is believed to help in regulating our appetite. So disrupting our sleep pattern will interfere with the pattern of appetite hormones production. It’ll boost ghrelin, a hormone that stimulates appetite, while suppressing leptin, which is a hormone that suppresses it.
Sleep tip: the blue light that comes off our electronic devices may seem harmless, but it is actually quite detrimental to our brain. It tricks our mind to think that it’s daytime. This leads to lower secretions of melatonin, which is the hormone that controls our sleep-wake cycles. Switching off all your electronics one hour before bed time is recommended for a good quality sleep.
Boosts Athletic Prowess
Not only can sleep help in other health aspects, but it can also help in how we perform during our workout sessions too. There are a number of studies that have made connections between sleep deprivation and poor exercise performance. Not only that, but the sleep deprivation can also lower our strength, reduce stamina as well. That being said, there hasn’t been many studies that have expressly stated that longer sleep will improve fitness and physical ability. The most notable research was one from Stanford University that found that basketball players who took a minimum 10 hours of sleep each night had a boost in accuracy, reaction time, speed and overall mental well-being.
Sleep tip: In terms of exercise, make an effort to exercise at least 20 minutes every single day. Doing this daily has been known to improve the quality of your sleep. That being said, do make an effort to avoid working out within three hours of your bedtime. After all, physical activity and physical draining are also mentally charging.
Boosts Creative Problem-Solving
Over the years, scientists have believed that there is a collaboration between the two main phases of our sleep – non-REM and REM. This phenomenon is the key to improving our creative problem-solving skills as a team firmly believes and theorizes.
To go into detail, the team at Cardiff University in Wales found that during non-REM sleep, our brain consolidates and strengthens our most recent memories through a replay sequence. Not only that, but it also differentiates between generalities and specifics too. When we enter REM sleep, our brain actively searches for similarities between seemingly unrelated concepts and combines them. Short version, non-REM sleep isolates our ideas, while REM sleep works to connect them.
Sleep tip: There are a number of culprits that interfere with our brain and sleep. One of the biggest is sodium. Salt or sodium is known to increase water retention and actually has an adverse effect on our circulation, and therefore, our sleep. So make sure to avoid anything salty during dinner and even in general.
Reduces Risks of Diabetes
With diabetes being a growing problem, there are many studies that have looked into sleep deprivation and developing diabetes. The most notable one was a Finnish study that looked at some healthy young men and figured out what would happen if they were given a restricted sleep schedule. From the study, it only took them six nights in a row of four hours of sleep to develop symptoms of prediabetes. But don’t worry about them or yourself if you’re in this boat. After one week of increased sleep duration, these symptoms completely disappeared. To expand on this, studies found that sleeping seven to eight hours each night is ideal to lower your risk of type 2 diabetes.
Sleep tip: In order to tune your body to a regular sleep routine, consider going to bed at the same time each night and setting your alarm for the exact same time each day. Exposure to sunlight over the course of the day will also help in reinforcing circadian rhythm too.
Helps Immune System
Do you get a lot of colds? Chances are if you’re getting a lot of them it’s to do a lot with your sleep habits. Research shows that even a small dip in our sleep time can affect our immune system a lot. The biggest study of note on this is a large-scale two-week study that monitored common cold progress and sleep time. In the study, participants were given nasal drops that contained the cold virus and found that those who were sleeping less than seven hours a night were three times more likely to develop a cold compared to those sleeping eight or more.
Sleep tip: For the best quality sleep you can get, be sure to be in a room that is dark and cool. Light suppresses the secretion of melatonin, so eliminating the light sources helps a lot. Furthermore keeping room temperature between 60 and 67 degrees helps a lot in sleeping.
Sleep is also a great stress reliever as well. During your sleep time, your body levels out the amounts of cortisol in your body. Cortisol is a key hormone that’s pivotal to how we respond to both emotional and physical stress. When we are sleep deprived, our body struggles a lot in producing a normal cortisol response. Because of this, we find it harder to have a more productive response to the stressors in our lives.
Sleep tip: In order to reduce stress levels – sleep is helpful, but there are other ways to do it as well. Take the time to practice breathing exercises, meditating, or even using guided imagery techniques. You can even listen to slow music. Try these activities out before going to bed each night.
Sleep also has a significant effect on inflammation in your body. This was discovered, as poor sleep is also connected to long-term inflammation and digestive problems like inflammatory bowel disease. It may even relapse into Crohn’s disease. Those who are getting under six hours have higher blood levels of inflammatory proteins compared to those getting more sleep.
And if you don’t think that sounds bad – think again. Chronic inflammation is connected to numerous illnesses such as heart diseases, stroke, diabetes, arthritis, and premature aging.
Sleep tip: If you struggle to relax before sleep, one suggestion is to drink chamomile tea before bedtime. While tea has caffeine in it, the levels in this one are drastically lower than in coffee and soda. Furthermore, chamomile tea has a calming effect primarily due to the antioxidant in it.
Enhances The Function of Our Brain
Sleep is actually connected to a number of functions of our brains. As mentioned above, it’s connected to our hormone productions in certain cases, but it does so much more. It affects how our brain functions, including our cognition, productivity, performance, and our concentration as well. Furthermore, sleep deprivation will negatively affect those areas too. One study that came out from a group of interns at the Harvard Work Hours Health and Safety Group found that interns that followed a traditional schedule with extended working hours of over 24 hours made over one third more serious medical errors than interns with the same schedule, but who got more sleep.
There was another study that found out that those who suffered from sleep disturbances during their midlife or older ages were more likely to develop cognitive impairments compared to those who got uninterrupted sleep.
Sleep tip: Feeling like having a snack late at night? Opt for some almonds, turkey or dairy products. These contain an ingredient called tryptophan, which is a natural calming and relaxing agent.
Provides Boosts in Mental Health
Out of those who suffer from depression, an estimated 90 percent of them complain about poor quality sleep. While improving sleep can help in boosting our mental health, the relationship between sleep and mental health is complex. Poor sleep can cause depression, with studies showing those with insomnia are ten times more likely to develop depression. But at the same time, mental illness symptoms often give you sleep problems to begin with. One study found that those getting six or less hours each night are more at risk of getting major depression, but that depression also poses a higher risk of decreased sleep.
Sleep tip: If you suspect that you have depression, don’t wait. Seek out professional help from a physician or a therapist. Discovering this early on can help you in alleviating some of the symptoms of depression as you can learn early on how you can best manage your mental health.
Improves Social Skills
While sleep doesn’t exactly boost our confidence in talking, there are studies that reveal that a lack of sleep does affect other areas of our social skills. One study from the University of Arizona found that those who didn’t get enough sleep had issues picking up on social cues and processing emotions. Specifically, the participants struggled in identifying between anger, sadness and happiness. As a result, poor sleep can affect the health of the relationships you have, as it’ll reduce your empathy and make it harder for you to regulate your emotions.
Sleep tip: Another beverage to avoid is any type of alcohol. Drinking alcohol is by far the worst decision you can make if you aim to get a good night’s sleep. While alcohol can make you feel sleepy, the chemicals in it can block out tryptophan.
Is Connected To Longer Life Expectancy
While there may not be many studies out there that say sleeping longer will make you immortal, there are lots of researches that point out that a lack of sleep boosts your risk of death. The biggest reason is as you’ve been going through this list is that a lack of sleep is a recipe for a number of diseases. These diseases – if left untended to – can diminish your longevity severally. In one study, researchers found that if you sleep under five hours, you are doubling your risk of cardiovascular disease, the leading cause of death in America.
Sleep tip: In order to live a better life, try to sleep similar hours across the weekdays and weekends. The sleep hour difference between each day should be no more than an hour. Staying up late or sleeping in on weekends can really mess up your sleep-wake rhythm.
While more research is being done revolving around sleep, we can say for certain one thing: there are multiple links between our lives and how we sleep. So if you are running into health or mental issues, one of the best cures is trying to get on the right track of sleeping.