We are always looking for ways to transform our lives and health for the better, but sometimes we forget that there is a miracle remedy right under our noses: sleep. With shifting habits and a time of heightened anxiety, it’s a perfect opportunity to work on perfecting your sleeping habits so you can get quality zzz’s (and a better life because of it).
Sleep is not a trivial issue. Our sleep problems are so severe that the Center for Disease Control refers to them as "a public health epidemic.” Almost half the population does not get enough sleep: 40% of people get less than the recommended 7-9 hours of sleep per night (teens and children need even more). While a small percentage of the population has no problem or impaired functioning due to poor sleep or a lack of sleep, it is incredibly rare to get sleep patterns right.
However, it’s important to note that it’s not necessarily good to go to the other extreme either. Getting too much sleep comes with its own health risks; fortunately, only 5% of people get more than 9 hours of sleep each night.
Hitting the sleep sweet spot
Sleep makes you feel better, but its importance goes far beyond just boosting your mood or eliminating those pesky under-eye bags. Getting quality sleep is a key part of a healthy lifestyle and can be beneficial to heart health, mental wellbeing, energy levels, and more.
In fact, it's just as important as eating healthy and exercising often. But unfortunately, the trends aren’t too promising. We sleep less now than we did in the past, and the quality of sleep, on average, has also declined.
Be that as it may, we know that more sleep definitely improves daily life and long term health. In what ways you might ask? Keep reading to find out!
Too little sleep ruins days
Too little sleep ruins your day, and you know it. Studies have shown that too. For example, a remarkable study published in Science magazine followed 909 working women. Poor sleep for just one single night affected their happiness levels as much as a missed deadline for turning in a paper and had an even greater impact on mood than significant income differences in the group of participants.
Sleeping well increases physical endurance
With a refreshing night's sleep, we get less tired and have better aerobic resistance, which is fundamental for exercise. Several studies carried out by Stanford University confirmed that athletes who slept 10 hours during competition improved both their times and their physical endurance. Sleep helps you find your inner athlete.
Protects you from type II diabetes
Type II diabetes is a terrible disease that can lead to strokes, amputations, blindness and organ damage. By not getting enough sleep, healthy adults lose their ability to control their blood sugar, and the less sleep we get, the more likely we are to develop a health problem. Compared to adults who get 7-8 hours of sleep a night, people who get 6 hours of sleep are 1.7 times more likely to develop diabetes, and people who get 5 hours of sleep are 2.5 times more likely to develop diabetes.
Sleeping well improves attention, especially for kids
Children do not react in the same way to sleep deprivation as adults. According to a study published in the journal Pediatrics, children between the ages of seven and eight who sleep less than eight hours are more likely to be hyperactive, distracted and impulsive. This is because continuous lack of sleep can lead to ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) symptoms in young ones.
Sleep helps your skin
People who sleep more have healthier skin. Along with mood disorders, poor sleep is also associated with chronic skin conditions. Some research shows that lack of sleep, depression, anxiety, and chronic skin problems go hand in hand. In a groundbreaking clinical trial by University Hospitals (UH) Case Medical Center, researchers found that sleep quality impacts skin function and aging. In particular, poor sleep led to increased signs of aging skin and slower recovery from a variety of environmental stressors, such as disruption of the skin barrier or ultraviolet (UV) radiation.
Sleeping well makes us more attractive
The best, most natural, and cheapest beauty treatment around is restful sleep. A study published in the British Medical Journal showed that people who sleep well at night are more attractive and healthier-looking to others than people who sleep fewer hours and poorly.
It allows us to develop muscle more easily
There is a reason why, in sports and fitness environments, they always focus on the importance of sleep. And that is because, if you don't sleep, you can't build muscle. Simple as that. Our body uses most of the sleep at night (except when it is in REM state) to heal the damage caused to cells and tissues during waking hours, in addition to having a more active metabolic activity and burning fat away.. Lack of sleep has also been shown to accelerate muscle atrophy. Want gains? Get sleep.
Sleeping well protects the heart
There are several studies that support the theory that people with a lack of continuous sleep (insomnia) are three times more likely to have heart failure than those who sleep well on a daily basis. One of the studies, published in the European Heart Journal, found that insomnia increased blood levels of stress hormones. This in turn increased blood pressure, heart rate and also cholesterol, all of which are risk factors for our cardiovascular health.
Your pocket will thank you
You're less likely to make risky financial decisions if you've slept well. When we're tired, it changes the way we make decisions, especially financial ones. Instead of trying to minimize a loss, we start looking for big, risky gains. So make sure you get a good night's sleep before you make a big purchase, investment, or financial decision.
Sleeping well increases creativity
According to the Spanish Heart Foundation, when the brain is rested and the production of hormones is balanced, our memory works much more efficiently; this circumstance causes our imagination to soar and we become more creative. Tap into your inner poet, artist, magician by getting amazing sleep.
You'll spend less time at the doctor
People who score high on the "sleepiness scale" use 11% more health care resources than people who are well rested. Sleep problems caused by sleep apnea and insomnia cost millions of dollars in direct medical costs each year, and that's even before taking into account the associated loss of productivity.
Sleeping well helps fight depression
It is clear that sleeping relaxes our body and, because of this, our body in turn produces more melanin and more serotonin; both hormones effectively counteract the effects of stress hormones (adrenaline and cortisol). After waking up from a restful night’s sleep, we feel better both physically and emotionally. In contrast, not sleeping well increases the production of stress hormones, helping depression to settle in more and more, according to a study done by the Institute of Medicine.
Teenagers who get enough sleep are less likely to abuse alcohol
According to the Institute of Medicine, sleep problems are associated with alcohol abuse. Teens who have difficulty sleeping or sleep only a few hours are more likely to develop alcohol-abusing behavior, although it also goes the other way (people who abuse alcohol have trouble sleeping well).
Still, researchers believe that having an altered circadian rhythm causes changes in the brain's reward system. This, in turn, makes adolescents more likely to engage in risky behaviors and develop substance abuse disorders.
Sleeping well improves the immune system
Research from Carnegie Mellon University concluded that people who sleep less than seven hours a day are three times more likely to catch a cold than those who sleep eight hours or more. So, not getting enough sleep weakens our immune system and sleeping well boosts it. All this happens because during sleep the immune system takes advantage of the time to regenerate itself in order to effectively fight against toxins and germs.
Your speech will be more intelligent
We have already seen that people who drive when they’re sleep deprived exhibit behavior similar to those who are under the influence of alcohol. But, did you know that staying awake for a long time can cause speech problems? Poor sleep causes repetitive word usage and slow, monotonous speech. So if you have a presentation, exam, big meeting, or anything that you have to be in tip top shape for, make sure you get a good night's sleep.
A mid-day map works miracles for memory
The mid-day nap. For many, it is one of life's simple but great pleasures. University of Haifa conducted a study which concluded that a 90-minute mid-afternoon nap helps to consolidate memories and improve dexterity.
Helps prevent migraines and other headaches
If you usually get sudden headaches, look at your sleep schedule. Although doctors aren't sure exactly why this happens, multiple studies show that people who don't get enough sleep are more likely to get migraines. "Poor sleep quality is uniquely associated with episodic migraine," wrote the authors of the study published by the American Headache Society.
Sleeping well improves your grades
Children between the ages of 10 and 16 who have sleep-disordered breathing, such as snoring, sleep apnea or similar, are more likely to have attention and learning problems, according to a study published in the journal Sleep. Another study, which conducted an experiment with college students, revealed that those who didn't get enough sleep got worse grades than those who did. When sleep deprivation can so clearly affect learning and, consequently, academic outcomes, it’s imperative that parents take their kids’ sleep schedules very seriously.
You'll be more productive at work
The more tired you are, the harder it is to concentrate on something, and the distraction can affect work life as well as personal life. Researchers say that "attention tasks seem to be particularly sensitive to sleep loss.” So, if you want to concentrate, whether it's on a job or a conversation, make sure you get some rest.
Sleeping well help you maintain healthy weight
It's not a myth. A study from the University of Chicago found that poor and insufficient sleep leads to increased levels of a hormone called ghrelin, which causes us to feel hungry; in the same way, adipocytes or fat cells release less leptin (the appetite suppressant hormone). Thus, motivated by the action of these two hormones, if you are on a diet and sleep a few hours, you will feel hungrier than if you sleep 8+ hours.
Multiple studies have shown that people who sleep less are more likely to be obese as well. A study published by The National Academies Press that followed 500 people for 13 years found that people who usually slept less than 7 hours a night were 7.5 times more likely to be overweight, even after controlling for physical activity, family history, and demographic factors. Researchers believe this is mainly due to hormonal changes caused by lack of sleep -- not getting enough sleep stimulates the appetite.
You'll feel less irritated
When we don't get enough sleep, we are more emotionally volatile and easily irritated: a little thing can make us explode. According to a study published by an Israeli research team in the journal Sleep, sleep deprivation amplifies negative emotions caused by small annoyances, nuisances, and interruptions. The researchers specifically studied medical residents, who, as we know, are tragically familiar with not getting enough sleep.
Sleeping well prevents traffic accidents
Single vehicle accidents related to fatigue and lack of sleep are even more numerous than accidents caused by alcohol consumption. Sleepiness, according to researcher David Rapoport of NYU Langone Medical Center (USA), "is grossly underestimated by most people, but the cost to society is enormous,” as lack of sleep affects reaction time and decision-making.
Sleeping well prolongs life
Adequate sleep is a key part of a healthy lifestyle and one of the long-term benefits is that getting the right amount of sleep, 7 to 8 hours a day, has been associated with longer life (too little sleep or too much sleep causes health problems and impairments to daily functioning and wellbeing), according to a study from St. Luke-Roosevelt Hospital Center in New York.
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