6 surprising benefits of a good night's sleep
As all hard-working students and professionals know, a bad night’s sleep can leave you feeling irritable and off-the-pace the next day.
With some studies showing that nearly 50 percent of the population are getting less than seven hours sleep per night, so in celebration of World Sleep Day, here are six benefits that can help transform your life if you make sure you get the seven to nine hours of good quality sleep advised by scientists and health professionals.
Getting enough sleep doesn’t just increase our performance levels, it actually helps us learn better too, and develop new skills and competencies much faster and more effectively. Studies have shown that sleep-deprived people who attempt to learn a new skill are unable to demonstrate significant improvement the next day, even after a full night’s sleep in-between. This shows just how important it is to establish a regular sleeping pattern – if you try to skimp on sleep during the week and catch up at the weekend, your long-term ability to learn will be impaired.
Leading neurologists now think that as we sleep, the brain is cleansed of potentially harmful toxins which build-up as a by-product of neural reactions. Much like freeing up memory on a computer’s hard drive and wiping it clean of viruses, this allows you to think much more quickly and clearly the next day and concentrate for longer periods of time. This means that you’re more likely to feel alert at the end of the working day, allowing you to enjoy your social life to a much greater extent.
Of course, all of these benefits are interlinked and mutually reinforcing, and improved decision making is another outcome which can positively impact every area of your life. People who get more sleep have much faster reaction times and generally make better decisions, leading to fewer mistakes overall. They are much less likely to gamble by taking big risks, which has big implications for the financial sector and its 24 hour work culture.
You may not associate lying in bed with increasing your fitness levels, but people who regularly sleep more than seven hours per night are more than seven times less likely to be obese than those who don’t, and that’s even after variables such as family history and demographic factors are taken into account. Sleep is also intrinsically linked to muscle growth, since this is when your body takes advantage of the down-time to repair and strengthen muscle cells that have been damaged during your work out.
Sleep is so much more than just resting. It’s a vital restorative mode which shuts down, or slows, certain bodily functions in order to carry out others that can’t be performed properly during full consciousness. This is why getting a good night’s sleep is not just about waking up feeling rested and alert, it’s essential for our physical well-being too. Exhaustive research has shown that the extensive health benefits of proper sleep range from a more efficient immune system, to a reduced tendency towards headaches and migraines, and can even reduce the risk of developing diabetes, heart problems, and certain types of cancer.
Failing to get enough sleep is proven to leave you feeling volatile and sensitive, which can amplify negative emotions out of all proportion. But over a longer period, the negative effects on your mood can go way beyond just feeling a bit cranky, and can even contribute to serious mental health problems such as depression and anxiety. On the other hand, healthy sleepers are much more likely to report feeling positive, satisfied, and generally happy with all aspects of their lives.