Everyone is talking about sleep. You know that getting enough quality rest is good for your energy and mood, but sleep impacts almost everything you do - mentally and physically. If you’ve been thinking it’s ok to go to bed late and just be a little tired, read on to see how you could be hurting your lifestyle.
Mental Focus & Performance
This is another pretty obvious benefit: if you’re well rested, you’ve got better focus and are less likely to make errors. But did you know that some studies have found that lack of sleep can impact the brain in a similar way to being intoxicated from alcohol? The brain loses the ability to function properly, with neurons being sluggish to respond.
Sleep helps you process information. Without it, decision-making and learning are harder. Bad memories that would have been processed with enough rest instead keep running through your mind. Sleep also improves creativity by allowing your brain more space to think up new ideas. So there really is wisdom in trying to “sleep on it.”
Sleep impacts social interactions, beyond just being grumpy. Being sleep-deprived affects your ability to recognize expressions and social cues, making it harder to interact and get along with others. It also means you have less willpower and are more likely to give in to negative impulses and temptation.
Being in a better mood, and a good sleep partner, can have a big impact on your relationship. Long-term sleep disruption (from snoring or restless legs) can tax any bond. Fixing sleep issues, from getting tested for sleep apnea to getting an adjustable bed to help improve blood flow, will help both of you appreciate the other. While it may seem counter-intuitive, getting more sleep is also good for your sex life. It improves libido, while lack of sleep decreases testosterone (which is what helps drive desire in both men and women).
Diet & Exercise
People who sleep less tend to weigh more, being 89% more likely to become obese (55% in children). Part of this is that if you sleep more, you have more energy, and are more likely to exercise. And being able to make better decisions includes deciding what and how much to eat. A bad sleep cycle also disrupts your hormones which means your appetite isn’t as easily regulated. Knowing what and when to eat in relationship to your sleep schedule can help you keep things on track.
Sleep is good for more than just energy. Athletes who get more rest have been shown to have improved speed, accuracy, and reaction times. Even if you’re not an athlete, this means you can make the most of your workouts. On the opposite side, those not getting enough sleep have greater difficulty performing even basic physical tasks involving walking and grip strength.
There are many health factors that are influenced by sleep, some of which are serious. Studies have shown that you increase your risk of heart disease and stroke by not sleeping enough. There is more risk of high blood pressure. There have even been studies linking sleeplessness to cancer. It affects blood sugar as well. In one study, otherwise healthy people exhibited symptoms of prediabetes after just one week of sleeping 4-6 hours a night.
You may also get sick more, since you have higher immunity if you’re well rested. And inflammation can be increased by lack of sleep, especially in the bowels. Because sleep impacts hormone productions of dopamine and opioids, you could experience more pain without sleep.
Mental health is just as important as physical health, and poor sleep quality is strongly linked to depression. Odds of anxiety and panic disorder attacks are also increased, as overall stress is worsened when your systems are taxed.
Keep your skin healthy! Sleep not only helps remove the bags under your eyes, it allows your skin to recover from the day’s stresses. Without it, you could age your skin prematurely. Multiple studies have shown that people who are well-rested appear more attractive to others.
If these aren’t good enough reasons, people who don’t sleep enough (or sleep too much) die younger. Make sure you get the right amount of sleep for your activity and age group, and set yourself up to make sure it’s quality rest. It may be hard to see where you can fit in an extra hour, but the benefits of better sleep are worth it.