Sleep may be the most underrated function in your life, yet you’ll spend about ⅓ of your existence doing it.
For the average 40-year old, that’s over 13 years spent in bed!
And you do it without much thought — like going to the bathroom, or eating when you’re hungry — rarely giving it any credit for the amazing benefits it provides you. That is, until you’re tired and grouchy — and then sleep (or a lack of it) gets the all the blame.
You see, although life can sometimes feel too busy to get enough quality sleep, the alternative is actually very serious. After all, sleep isn’t something you get to choose to do, it’s a must for all human beings (and most animals). Because, well… without it, we‘d die.
But some people — in an attempt to get more things done — try to “cheat the system” and only sleep a little bit every night.
Bad news – it doesn’t work. Because too little sleep can be extremely dangerous, both mentally and physically.
Besides, why would you want to rest so little when there are such wonderful benefits to getting the recommended nightly allowance? Experts say adults need at least 7-8 hours of sleep per night in order to remain in good health.2 Of course, all humans differ, and some people may function just fine on a few less hours of sleep. But for most of us need at least 7 hours of shuteye every night in order to maintain optimum body function.
So, what are these “magical” benefits of sleeping 7-8 hours per night? Let’s dive in.
Benefits of Proper Sleep
1. Helps Your Body Heal and Repair
With Sleep: As you rest, your heart and blood vessels are able to repair themselves. The growth hormone which repairs your cells and tissues is also boosted.3
Add to this the fact that a good slumber can increase your natural immune response, and you’ve got some pretty great reasons for why you need to get to bed early — especially during cold and flu season.4
Lack of Sleep: Sleep deficiency has been linked to increased risks of chronic heart and kidney conditions, high blood pressure, high blood sugar, and even complications in the brain.5
And on the immune system side of things, even just a little sleep loss can dramatically increase your chance of infections.
A study which exposed 153 participants to the common cold virus, found that sleeping less than 7 hours per night almost tripled their chance of getting sick!5 So, if you want to stay healthy this winter, you best make sure you’re sleeping well!
2. Boosts Concentration and Productivity
With Sleep: The brain configures new pathways while you sleep, which creates space for new memories, better concentration, and quicker response times. In fact, scientists now believe sleep may allow your brain to play “housekeeper,” removing toxins and just “cleaning things up” in general.6 So while you rest, your brain is actually on nightshift.
Researchers have shown that your REM sleep (the type you get when you get a good night’s sleep) is what may actually affect your daily performance and productivity. One study suggested REM slumber may even offer a 32% advantage in problem-solving skills.7 And another study with school children showed time spent asleep was predictive of performance in the morning.8
Lack of Sleep: Your decision-making and problem-solving abilities at school or work can suffer greatly. And aren’t we all desperately seeking greater productivity in life?
But, on a more alarming level, a lack of sleep can impair your driving ability as much as alcohol.
In fact, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that 100,000 of reported crashes each year are the result of driver fatigue. And, that’s just the reported ones. This results in around 1,550 deaths and 71,000 injuries, yearly.9 That means you can literally kill someone because you didn’t get enough sleep – a wake-up call, indeed!
3. Aids in Weight Management
With Sleep: Sleep quality plays a large role in weight management. When you’re well rested, you don’t tend to reach for foods containing those “bad” refined sugars, which increase your endorphins and give you a temporary “energy high.”10
Secondly, numerous studies have shown that getting more sleep can lower your risk of dangerous chronic blood sugar conditions. One study showed glucose tolerance was higher in those who slept more than 6 hours per night.11 Another found having less than 6 hours, or more than 9 hours of sleep was associated with “Impaired Glucose Tolerance.”12 Again, the snoozing “sweet spot” is around 7-8 hours.
Lack of Sleep: So, sleep plays a pivotal role in maintaining your blood sugars, even when you’re not eating sugary foods. This is because a lack of sleep can disrupt your body’s ability to respond to insulin. When this happens, the body may require almost three times as much insulin to regulate that blood glucose.13
This is known as insulin resistance, and it causes sugars and cholesterol to accumulate in the blood. Which, in turn, may increase your risk of chronic high blood sugar conditions and obesity.14 Plus, excess insulin ends up being stored in the fat cells.15
4. Improves Your Emotional Well Being
With Sleep: A good night’s rest may, in fact, have an even greater effect on mood and mental health than it does on cognitive performance.16 You can probably attest to the difference in your mood from when you get a great night’s slumber and when you don’t.
Lack of Sleep: But not getting enough quality snooze time can go much further than just moodiness and irritability. Because sleep helps to regulate your emotions, lack of sleep has the potential to cause serious mental distress.
Studies done on teenagers with sleep problems have shown that sleep deprivation places them at a high risk for suicide or suicidal thoughts.
According to Shashank Joshi MD, an associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Stanford, sleep acts like a “balm for the brain.” She believes this is because the better you rest, the more clearly you can think while you’re awake. Your “clear-thinking” abilities are like a built-in mental support system that prevents you from making harmful decisions.17
This, of course, extends to adults too. A study of 25,000 adults in Norway found a significant relationship between chronic insomnia and the development of anxiety disorders.18
Wanna Feel Younger?
Just in case you need any further reasons to get a good night’s slumber, here’s one more: You’ll look younger! Studies have shown that poor shut-eye is associated with increased signs of aging and a less healthy, satisfying appearance.19,20
For more health wisdom from Eastern philosophies and the Urban Monk, keep reading here: