We all suffer from some sort of sleep loss. It’s nearly impossible to live in today’s world and be able to say that you get a solid 8-10 hours every night. Right? Whether it’s in the form of a new baby, long work hours, or a touch of insomnia, sleep deprivation rears its ugly head for us all.
The health benefits of sleeping is a topic very important to me. As a writer and a parent, I need to be on full alert at all times and have the clarity to get my work done. But do you ever wonder what other areas of your life become affected by lack of proper rest?
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You might want to read our related article: How Does Sleep Help with Weight Loss?
Let’s Break It Down, Shall We?
In order to really grasp the many pros to the benefits of good sleep, you have to see the facts. I’ll break it all down and hit the key areas that affect most people.
How Much Sleep Do You Really Need?
This answer varies for different people, but the biggest factor is age. A small child will require far more rest than that of an adult who is pretty much done growing. Let’s take a look at the different sleep requirements by age.
Newborn ages 0-3 months: 14-17 hours
Infant ages 4-11 months: 12-15 hours
Toddler ages 1-24 months: 11-14 hours
Preschooler ages 3-5 years: 11-13 hours
Pre-Teen ages 6-13 years: 9-11 hours
Teenager ages 14-17 years: 8-10 hours
Young Adult ages 18-25 years: 7-9 hours
Adult ages 26-64: 7-9 hours
Senior ages 65+: 7-9 hours
Now, these are the national average of hours per night, according to the Sleep Foundation, and are meant to be a guide. But how many of you can honestly say you get the recommended amount of slumber each night?
Emotional Well Being
Of course, sleep is going to affect your mood. Just think of how cranky you are in the mornings after a night of unrest.
Makes You Happier
When you get the right amount of rest each night, and keep that consistent, you will automatically begin to see major changes in your emotional health. You’ll be happier, more patient, and less likely to suffer from depression.
Apparently, getting one extra hour of rest each night has the equivalent effect on your happiness as making an extra $60k per year in a salary.
Less Depression & Anxiety
There are tons of medication you can take for anxiety and forms of depression, but why go through that when you can try more natural solutions at home? Like getting better rest, for example. Studies show that most of the common forms of depression are linked to sleep disorders.
It was discovered that the risk of developing some sort of depression or anxiety was far more likely in those who suffer from insomnia or other types of sleep loss.
When we’re caught in the cycle of sleep loss, our brains begin to fritz. The amygdala, the part of our brains that control emotion, goes haywire and reacts in ways we don’t normally do. A recent study pinned the results of two groups against each other; one that was kept awake for over 35 hours and the other who was well rested. The results were what you’d expect; the deprived group were far more irritable and less happy.
Just imagine a sleep-deprived mother dealing with her child. She’s far more likely to lose patience at a faster rate than that of a mother who got at least seven hours the night before.
Fitness & Physical Benefits
There are tons of ways to help improve your physical well being, but sleep is probably one of the best. This is because it affects so many factors. If you want to start working out more then your body needs the proper amount of rest to keep up with the extra exercise.
Best Ways to Stay Fit
Believe it or not, there are so many ways that sleep health directly affects your physical well being. We all know there’s a lots of ways to exercise and stay fit. Running or walking each day, hitting up the gym, eating right and drinking plenty of water. These are all key factors if you want a healthy, fit body. But many people forget about sleep. That should be high on the list!
Builds Muscle Easier
Proper rest ensures that your muscles can recuperate and regenerate new tissue, helping you to trim excess fats and build new muscle. If you’re into bodybuilding, try adding 1-2 hours of sleep to your schedule and see what a difference it makes.
Do you ever hear of a ‘rest day’? It’s what fitness enthusiasts and bodybuilders call their one or two days of rest. They allow their bodies the time it needs to recuperate and help their muscles to build new tissue. This means lots of sleep!
When you’re not getting enough rest, your body tries to compensate in other ways, and draws nutrients away from the surface to help what’s inside. This can have horrible effects on our skin. It can become dry and wrinkled with dark spots forming under your eyes. Bags begin to show as puffiness, and it’s takes longer for scars to heal.
Seriously, it’s not called beauty sleep for nothing! Proper rest helps your body to repair itself and rejuvenate, not only your skin, but your hair, nails, and other surface appearances. That’s right. When you’re suffering from insomnia, you can become stressed very fast and this stress causes hair loss and thinning of the nails.
You’ll See Better
It directly affects your sight, too. Did you know that? When suffering from sleep loss, our brains are trying desperately to either run on fumes or just simply shut down. And do you know what controls your vision? Your brain. If the organ isn’t functioning on all engines, then your vision can become impaired. This could lead to some serious issues, dangerous ones.
If you’ve suffered from a serious injury, or even just a hard day at the gym, a good night’s sleep can rejuvenate you in ways you never thought. Our bodies release important chemicals and hormones that scour the areas and help speed up the healing process. Without it, springing back from a bad injury can become difficult.
Lastly, when you’re not getting enough rest, your body will begin to hoard energy. This means sugars and fats. It does so as a form of protection. No sleep means no energy, so your body will try and syphon it in other ways. Like storing up excess fats and other bad things. This can prove to be a hurdle when trying to control your weight. The benefits of sleep and weight loss, when used in combination, are very positive.
Less Risk of Disease
Believe it or not, proper rest directly challenges the awful pangs of disease. And not just any diseases, but some of the worst ones imaginable. Just think, you can lower your risk of some of the most horrendous terminal diseases just by getting more rest and taking care of your body. Go figure.
Less Time & Money on Medical Visits
Many things change when you manage to get the amount of sleep that is recommended by the Sleep Foundation, but none can be more important than minimizing your risk for disease. If you ensure you are getting the right amount of sleep for you age you will undoubtedly spend less time at the doctor. Whether it’s a lack of getting the flu or the common cold, or just giving your body more energy to fight off germs, less time at the doctor means a healthier you and less money spent as well.
Reduces Risk of Diabetes
Along with the basic health benefits, you are also actually less likely to develop Diabetes if you are getting a healthy amount of sleep. According to WebMd, “people with high blood sugar are a key indicator of someone with sleep problems because they are trying to get energy from sources other than sleep.”
Fewer Migraines & Headaches
Also according to WebMd, sleeping less can actually trigger headaches and migraines due to an imbalance of serotonin and dopamine levels upon waking up either at the wrong time or with too little sleep. Surprisingly enough, not only headaches can be limited with more sleep, but so can certain forms of cancer!
Less Worries of Cancer
The Cancer Treatment Center of America has found that people with sleep problems have more instances of inflammation and abnormal immune function. Though they don’t specifically know why, some forms of cancer can occur at a higher rate for people who don’t get a healthy amount of sleep.
Good Heart Health
Finally, sleep is an essential component when it comes to heart problems as well. Again, though it isn’t exactly certain why this is an important factor, people that got less than the amount of sleep recommended were almost twice as likely to develop cardiovascular problems according to the Sleep Foundation. Basically, the more sleep you get, the less likely you are going to have some very serious health issues down the road in life!
Performance and Intellectual Ability
While proper rest helps us to improve our inner bodies and battle things like cancer, depression, and diabetes, it also help us to better the outside, too. Things like performance and decision making. These actions rely heavily on the fact of whether or not we’ve had a good night’s rest.
Have you ever gone to class after a long night of partying? Or maybe gone to work after a night of restless sleep? You obviously don’t perform as well as you would have had you gotten a healthy night’s rest before you had to be there. It pretty much goes without saying that a good night’s rest will help you with your performance in your everyday life, and you don’t need a special source to tell you that.
Did you know that if you study something before sleeping, you are more likely to commit what you learned to long term memory after following it with a healthy night’s rest? The people at Healthy Sleep agree with this and many other benefits to memory when it comes to sleep.
Reverting back to the previous comment about proper rest and how it can affect your eyesight, it goes without saying that this could also impact your driving skills. But it’s not just eyesight that’s a determining factor here. Your brain needs to be on full alert and functioning without the heavy fog of sleep deprivation hovering overhead.
So, while driving, if you find yourself blinking a lot or having a hard time recalling the last few miles you drove, then pull over. You’re driving impaired and this could have lethal results. A great way to battle this, at least enough to get home safely, is to pull over and get out. Jog around your car, sprint down the side of the road and back again. This speed up your heart and improves blood flow which alerts the brain and can keep you awake long enough to get to you destination.
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Easier to Speak
There was a massive study done at the University of Nebraska that reviewed the effects of sleep on children’s speech and ability to process words. First, a group of parents were asked to monitor their child’s rest patterns for a week. Then that group was divided into two.
One group was less rested than the other and when tests were administered to challenge their speech and ability to comprehend visuals to words, the children facing poor rest performed far worse than the other group. They were slow to react, much slower to process, and could only procure simple words and phrases.
Young Adults May Abuse Alcohol Less
Alcohol is the most heavily used substance by teenageers in the States today. Sadly, it’s often due to the lack of sleep. Students are faced with an excess of schoolwork and spend countless hours at night pouring over paperwork and completing assignments. This leads to high levels of stress.
So, naturally, in their down time (like weekends) what do they do? They look for ways to unwind and relax which often leads to drinking. If teens had less homework and pressure to perform on tests, then they may get more sleep at night.
The average student receives about one hour of homework per techincal class (Science, Math, etc) each day. Multiply that by the average number of technical classes they take…that’s at least 3-4 hours of homework every night. When do they sleep?
More Work Productivity
We’ve already addressed how more rest can help you feel rejuvenated and more alert. Your mind and body are both in sync and you’re full of energy. This wouldn’t happen if you were suffering from sleep loss. We’ve all had those days where we get up for work and literally drag our bodies around until we can go home.
This can lead to underperformance at work and can make you look really bad to your boss and coworkers. Just try and get at least 1-2 hours of sleep each night and you’ll notice a huge difference in your work productivity within a matter of a few days. In fact, others may notice it, too!
Better Reaction Times
It also goes without saying that your memory will work better and you will have better reaction time on 7-9 hours of sleep than you would on 3-5 hours. Researchers at the University of Texas did a study on two groups of people; one well rested and the other deprived. Then the groups were asked to perform the same task twice but 24 hours in between.
The results showed that even though the deprived group had already performed the task, when it came to do it the second time they were far less inclined to think fast and react in a timely manner.
Fewer Dangerous Mistakes
So take into consideration all of the information you’ve learned thus far. Poor rest leads to headaches, slower learning, poor reaction times, and muscle fatigue. Now apply all of these issues to yourself when doing a dangerous task like climbing a ladder or operating heavy machinery.
Just imagine how much your risk of fatal mistakes can increase. Workplace accidents caused by fatigue has been reported to cost upwards to $77 billion each year. That’s astronomical! Just imagine if those people were better rested.
So, when you learn something new or are introduced to a new skill, these information creates a new memory in the brain. But in order for this new found knowledge to remain intact and stick, your brain needs to retain it. Once upon a time, scientists believed that this could be done with the simplicity of passing time.But now, with new research, they’ve found that sleep actually plays a larger role in this.
It’s called memory consolidation and only occurs when the brain is well rested. So the next time you’re studying for a test or trying to remember important information of any kind, take a cat nap right after and you’ll increase your chances of retaining it.
Easier on Your Wallet
When you’re tired you don’t think things through as well as you would when better rested. People have been known to make bad decisions, especially financially, and this can be a burden. Companies are aware of this fact and that’s why you often see things like the Shopping Channel operating 24-7, to catch those insomniacs in hopes that they’ll buy fifteen waterproof hats.
So protect your savings, put your credit card away, and get some sleep. There’s a good chance you won’t want the purchase half as bad as you did the day before.
Improving Your Relationship with Your Significant Other
Who doesn’t want a healthy relationship with their boy/girlfriend or spouse? If sleep can help you add to that why wouldn’t anyone want to do it? But it’s not just for pleasure, proper rest improves so much more.
Better Sex Drive
The first thing that you will notice when you get more sleep is a healthier sex drive, especially in women. Your brain is rested as well as your body and you’re more ready and willing to perform sexual or intimate acts. Of course this will help any relationship flourish. No one wants to be so tired that they can’t perform sexually with their significant other.
A healthy sex drive is key to a healthy relationship, and you just can’t get the best out of it without the proper amount of sleep. Psychology Today makes several good points about sleep and your relationships. One thing that we all wish for happens when you get a good night’s sleep: you actually LOOK better! There are no circles under your eyes when you are rested, they don’t call it beauty sleep for no reason. Of course, looking more attractive is great for the sexual part of a relationship as well.
You are also less likely to have a good sense of humor when you are deprived of healthy sleep. This can inhibit communication in your relationships and cause more fights, leading to less intimacy. It goes without saying here that when you connect the dots, just getting enough sleep is a much better idea. This goes along with patience. When you are tired, you have a shorter fuse than when you are well rested and that can mean a lot more fights with people in your life. No one wants to ruin a relationship because they are tired.
Being A Better Parent
All of us who are parents have been in the situation of having no sleep and having to care for a child. If you say you haven’t, well, you aren’t being truthful with yourself. Every mother goes through it right after having a child. The baby doesn’t want sleep, while that is all the parents can think of. Can you imagine how much easier it would be to care for a newborn on a full, uninterrupted night’s sleep? Now compare that with how it would be as the child got older. Just like it is difficult when they are young, it stays difficult as they grow up. If you make sure you are taking care of yourself, you can take better care of your child or children.
A website called The Science of Mom hits everything right on the ball. Though it is mainly talking about new parenting, you can take most of what is said and apply it to parenting in general. Sleeping affects your mood, cognitive behavior, functioning in daily tasks, speaking, relationships, and well…we’ve said it all at least once already. Prioritizing your sleep will do nothing but make you a better parent in the long run. You will be able to be a better role model and have more patience for the everyday mishaps that are bound to happen.
I could say much more about sleep than I have mentioned here, but I think you’re getting the idea. Sleep is imperative to living a healthy live and functioning at a high level. The health benefits of sleep affect more than just your energy levels, it touches almost every aspect of your existence. If you deprive yourself of sleep you are doing nothing but hurting yourself and sometimes your relationships.
We only have one chance at this life, so we need to do things right. The science points to getting a restful night’s sleep every night, no ifs ands or buts. You should be your first priority, and sleep may not seem like a big deal, but it is actually a huge deal when it comes to your health and your quality of life. I know I don’t get enough sleep, though I do try to. Do you get enough sleep? The recommended amount? Be honest. Please leave a comment and share your thoughts. Also, share this post if you found it helpful to you. Help someone else learn how important this is!