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Why is sleep so important?
While many consider fitness and nutrition to be the two-headed dragon when it comes to peak health and performance, we tend to forget about the third – sleep.
A quality sleeping regimen is of the utmost important, if not more important than consistent exercise and proper nutrition. Without a good night’s rest, you immediately increase the risks of experiencing negative side-effects like poor-performance, slower cognition, mood swings, hormone fluctuation, weight gain, depression, and more!
An improved sleeping regimen can provide immediate benefits!
In today’s digital age, workaholics and the “grind-life” are often put on a pedestal. However, this attitude can lead to poor sleep cycles, lack of rest and recovery, and, ultimately – burnout.
Instead, we need to flip the switch on what is truly important so that we can tackle life with a new vengeance.
7 Benefits of good sleep
Good sleep reduces stress
The relationship between stress and sleep is a vicious circle. Too must stress, be it regarding financial concerns, health problems or relationships, makes it harder to sleep. A lack of sleep, however, only increases the amount of stress that you feel because your sleep-deprived body churns out more stress hormones.
Good sleep affects mood
Sleep loss reduces your ability to interact socially.
Several studies confirmed this using emotional facial recognition. One study found that people who hadn’t slept had a reduced ability to recognize expressions of anger and happiness.
Researchers believe that poor sleep affects your ability to recognize important social cues and process emotional information.
Sleep improves Mental Performance
Sleep is important for various aspects of brain function. This includes cognition, concentration, productivity, and performance. All of these are negatively affected by sleep deprivation.
A study on medical interns provides a good example. Interns on a traditional schedule with extended work hours of more than 24 hours made 36% more serious medical errors than interns on a schedule that allowed more sleep.
Another study found that short sleep can negatively impact some aspects of brain function to a similar degree as alcohol intoxication.
On the other hand, good sleep has been shown to improve problem-solving skills and enhance memory performance of both children and adults
Good sleep helps with Weight Maintenance
Poor sleep is strongly linked to weight gain. People with short sleep duration tend to weigh significantly more than those who get adequate sleep. In fact, short sleep duration is one of the strongest risk factors for obesity.
In one extensive review study, children and adults with short sleep duration were 89% and 55% more likely to develop obesity, respectively the effect of sleep on weight gain is believed to be mediated by numerous factors, including hormones and motivation to exercise.
If you’re trying to lose weight, getting quality sleep is absolutely crucial.
Studies show that sleep-deprived individuals have a bigger appetite and tend to eat more calories.
Sleep deprivation disrupts the daily fluctuations in appetite hormones and is believed to cause poor appetite regulation. This includes higher levels of ghrelin, the hormone that stimulates appetite, and reduced levels of leptin, the hormone that suppresses appetite
Sleep is important for Mental Health
Mental health issues, such as depression, are strongly linked to poor sleep quality and sleeping disorders. It’s been estimated that 90% of people with depression complain about sleep quality
Poor sleep is even associated with an increased risk of death by suicide.
Those with sleeping disorders like insomnia or obstructive sleep apnea also report significantly higher rates of depression than those without
Quality sleep improves Health
Sleep quality and duration can have a major effect on many health risk factors. These are the factors believed to drive chronic diseases, including heart disease.
A review of 15 studies found that people who don’t get enough sleep are at far greater risk of heart disease or stroke than those who sleep 7–8 hours per night.
Experimental sleep restriction affects blood sugar and reduces insulin
In a study in healthy young men, restricting sleep to 4 hours per night for 6 nights in a row caused symptoms of prediabetes. These symptoms resolved after one week of increased sleep duration.
Poor sleep habits are also strongly linked to adverse effects on blood sugar in the general population. Those sleeping less than 6 hours per night have repeatedly been shown to be at an increased risk of type 2 diabetes
Sleep affects Athletic Performance
Sleep has been shown to enhance athletic performance.
In a study on basketball players, longer sleep was shown to significantly improve speed, accuracy, reaction times, and mental well-being.
Less sleep duration has also been associated with poor exercise performance and functional limitation in older women.
A study in over 2,800 women found that poor sleep was linked to slower walking, lower grip strength, and greater difficulty performing independent activities
Sleep improves the Immune System
Even a small loss of sleep has been shown to impair immune function.
One large 2-week study monitored the development of the common cold after giving people nasal drops with the cold virus. They found that those who slept less than 7 hours were almost 3 times more likely to develop a cold than those who slept 8 hours or more. If you often get colds, ensuring that you get at least 8 hours of sleep per night could be very helpful. Eating more garlic can help as well.
Poor sleep leads to Inflammation
Sleep can have a major effect on inflammation in your body. In fact, sleep loss is known to activate undesirable markers of inflammation and cell damage.
Poor sleep has been strongly linked to long-term inflammation of the digestive tract, in disorders known as inflammatory bowel syndrome. One study observed that sleep-deprived people with Crohn’s disease were twice as likely to relapse as patients who slept well.
Researchers are even recommending sleep evaluation to help predict outcomes in individuals with long-term inflammatory issues.
As you can tell, this list could be quite lengthy. Above are just a few of the more prominent benefits that we’ve come to understand.
So, how can one improve their sleep? Great question! Below, we’ll offer some helpful tips that you can implement into your daily/nightly routines immediately! Let’s get into it.
Tips to better sleep
While we won’t go into detail on every tip, below is a list of tips that you can begin to consider and, hopefully, implement:
- Reduce light exposure before bedtime (especially blue light, emitted by digital devices!)
- Avoid overconsumption of caffeine during the day (and avoid it all together closer to bedtime!);
- Go to bed at the same time and wake up at the same time every day (consistency is key!);
- Set your bedroom temperature to an optimal 70 degrees;
- Consider natural melatonin supplements, if needed;
- If you’re a workaholic, schedule your day to END in the early evening (downtime and unwinding are key to a restful sleep!);
- Optimize your lifestyle (i.e. exercise regularly, eat healthy, etc);
- If you struggle with sleep, avoid alcohol, sugar, screen-time, etc.
The importance of sleep is undeniable by looking at the key role it plays in an optimal, healthy lifestyle. Study after study continues to pop-up to further verify this fact.
If you haven’t yet considered it to be a crucial aspect of health, hopefully this article has enlightened you. If nothing else, don’t become overwhelmed or concerned. Simply choose two or three tips from the list above and give it a try!
You’ll thank yourself later!