Your body, including your brain, works best when you get enough sleep. You’re probably aware that you feel tired and rundown when you don’t get enough sleep.
But lack of sleep also makes it harder to concentrate or perform well while at school or doing homework, or when participating in sports or other activities.
Not getting enough sleep worsens your mood and also slows down your reaction time and affects your ability to concentrate while driving .
Some very important benefits of good sleep
1. Reduce the Risk of Obesity
The prevalence of obesity is largely blamed on poor diets and reduced physical activity, but there’s a growing body of research that suggests our sleep patterns might be at least partly responsible too.
According to research published in Endocrine Development, the obesity rate has increased in correlation to the steady decline in nightly sleep duration, which has dropped by 1.5-2 hours over the last 50 years.
The same study determined that sleeping for less than 6 hours per night is associated with a higher risk of obesity particularly among children after controlling for variable factors.
2. Boost Creativity
In addition to affecting your physical wellbeing, sleep also has a big influence on your mental health including your creativity.
In a study published in Nature, test subjects were asked to perform a task that could be completed via gradual learning or by recognizing a hidden rule that would allow them to rapidly solve the problems.
Twice as many participants were able to find the hidden rule after sleeping, leading investigators to conclude that sleep “facilitates extraction of explicit knowledge and insightful behavior”, which are critical attributes for unlocking higher levels of creativity.
3. Being More Productive
The modern world is all about efficiency. While it might seem counterproductive to getting things done, research indicates that those who consistently get eight hours of quality sleep are more productive than their sleep-deprived counterparts. According to the U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, sleep deficiency is closely linked to slower reaction times, being more prone to making mistakes and taking more time to complete tasks.
4. Reduce the Risk of Heart Disease
Second only to cancer, heart disease is one of the most common causes of death in many countries and claims about 48,000 lives per year, according to statistics. While there are many factors responsible for these statistics, research suggests that sleep deprivation may be a key contributing element.
In a review of 15 medical studies covering close to half a million people, an investigation published in European Heart Journal found a positive relationship between short sleep duration and cardiovascular disease. Those who typically got less than six hours of sleep per night had a 48 percent higher chance of developing or dying from coronary heart disease in the follow up period, which ranged from 7 to 25 years.
5. Improve Hormonal Balance
Sleep is also critical for the production, release and regulation of your hormones, which have an enormous influence on your health and wellbeing. For instance, a 2004 study found a strong link between reduced leptin and elevated ghrelin, hormones that are known to make you feel full and hungry, respectively.
In turn, this may increase the risk of obesity and other health conditions associated with a higher body weight. In addition, the body releases growth hormones during deep sleep phases, which are critical for the development of children and teens, and facilitating muscle growth.
Things That Hinder Good Sleep
- Caffeine : Consuming caffeine in the evenings will lead to disrupted sleep. Be aware of the caffeine in soda, coffee, and tea. A cup of coffee after dinner or tea before bed can be calming, but make sure to opt for decaf. Caffeine free tea like Sleepy Time tea can actually help you relax and fall asleep faster.
- Smoking : Nicotine is a stimulant, making it hard for smokers to fall asleep. Smokers often have far more disrupted sleep patterns as well. The more you smoke, the more likely you may be to develop insomnia. Smoking also changes your circadian rhythm which leads to poor sleep.
- Sleeping pills : There is a high risk of addiction when it comes to sleeping pills. With melatonin, you’ll need an increased amount for it to work. Sleeping pills will eventually make it harder for your body to fall asleep naturally. If you do need a pill to fall asleep, limit the dosage and don’t take one every single night.
- Special Diet: Many people may feel tired during the day when fasting, but daily performance is typically not affected. However, fasting affects our sleep whether we realize it or not. Food deprivation often increases wakefulness. For those who fast during Ramadan or other religious holidays, beginning to fast for shorter amount of times for the days leading up to the fasting period can help your body become acclimated, thus reducing fasting negative effect on sleep.
- Sex : Sex before bed can make it easier to fall asleep since most people are typically exhausted after exerting so much energy. But sex also lowers cortisol, a stress related hormone that can make it difficult to fall asleep. However, this isn’t true for everyone. If you find yourself more stimulated and awake after sex, avoid it right before bed.
Tips to Improve Good Sleep
- Avoid caffeine, alcohol, nicotine, and other chemicals that interfere with sleep. As any coffee lover knows, caffeine is a stimulant that can keep you awake. So avoid caffeine (found in coffee, tea, chocolate, cola, and some pain relievers) for four to six hours before bedtime. Similarly, smokers should refrain from using tobacco products too close to bedtime.
- Turn Your Bedroom into a sleep-inducing environment. A quiet, dark, and cool environment can help promote sound slumber. To achieve such an environment, lower the volume of outside noise with earplugs or a “white noise” appliance. Use heavy curtains, blackout shade, or an eye mask to block light, which is a powerful cue that tells the brain that it’s time to wake up. Keep the temperature comfortably cool—between 60 and 75°F—and the room well ventilated. And make sure your bedroom is equipped with a comfortable mattress and pillows. (Remember that most mattresses wear out after ten years).
- Establish a soothing pre-sleep routine. Ease the transition from wake time to sleep time with a period of relaxing activities an hour or so before bed. Take a bath (the rise, then fall in body temperature promotes drowsiness), read a book, watch television, or practice relaxation exercises. Avoid stressful, stimulating activities, doing work, or even discussing hurtful emotional issues. Physically and psychologically stressful activities can cause the body to secrete the stress hormone cortisol, which is associated with increasing alertness. If you tend to take your problems to bed, try writing them down and then putting them aside.
- Go to sleep when you’re truly tired. Struggling to fall asleep just leads to frustration. If you’re not asleep after 20 minutes, get out of bed, go to another room, and do something relaxing, like reading or listening to music until you are tired enough to sleep.
- Don’t be a nighttime clock-watcher. Staring at a clock in your bedroom, either when you are trying to fall asleep or when you wake in the middle of the night, can actually increase stress, making it harder to fall asleep. Turn your clock’s face away from you. And if you wake up in the middle of the night and can’t get back to sleep in about 20 minutes, get up and engage in a quiet, restful activity such as reading or listening to music. And keep the lights dim; bright light can stimulate your internal clock. When your eyelids are drooping and you are ready to sleep, return to bed.
- Use light to your advantage. Natural light keeps your internal clock on a healthy sleep-wake cycle. So let in the light first thing in the morning and get out of the office for a sun break during the day.
- Lighten up on evening Meals. Eating a pepperoni pizza at 10 p.m. may be a recipe for insomnia. Finish dinner several hours before bedtime and avoid foods that cause indigestion. If you get hungry at night, snack on foods that (in your experience) won’t disturb your sleep, perhaps dairy foods and carbohydrates.
- Balance your fluid intake. Drink enough fluid at night to keep from waking up thirsty but not so much and so close to bedtime that you will be awakened by the need for a trip to the bathroom.
- Exercise early. Exercise can help you fall asleep faster and sleep more soundly as long as it’s done at the right time. Exercise stimulates the body to secrete the stress hormone cortisol, which helps activate the alerting mechanism in the brain. This is fine, unless you’re trying to fall asleep. Try to finish exercising at least three hours before bed or work out earlier in the day.
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