Call it a night! The importance of sleep

As we mentioned in previous articles (Detoxify Yourself!), a good sleeping habit is essential for a healthy lifestyle. While it may be obvious that sleep is beneficial, most people don’t realize why is it so important nor how many sleep do we really need and all the improvements that a good night’s sleep brings to our lives. As everybody knows, sleep makes you feel better, but it goes far beyond mood boosting or removing under eye bags and purple circles. We are going to give you some facts and tips to get the high quality rest that your body, mind and spirit needs.

Sleep is awesomeSleep is awesome!

How much sleep do you need?

According to the Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School, your body manages and requires sleep in much the same way that it regulates the need for eating, drinking, and breathing. Extensive research has been done on the effects of sleep. These studies have consistently shown that sleep plays a vital role in promoting physical health, longevity, and emotional well-being. This explains why, after a good night’s sleep, you feel better, your thoughts are clearer, and your emotions are less fragile. Without adequate sleep, judgment, mood, and ability to learn and retain information are weakened. Achieving restful sleep begins with keeping a consistent sleep schedule and creating a bedroom environment that promotes relaxation.

The amount of sleep a person needs will vary from individual to individual. The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke reports that most adults need seven to eight hours a night. Though, some people may need as few as 5 hours per night and others may need up to nine or ten hours of sleep each day for proper functioning.

how much sleep

Benefits of sleep

Sleep is essential for a person’s health and wellbeing, according to the National Sleep Foundation (NSF). Yet millions of people do not get enough sleep and many suffer from lack of sleep. According to psychologist and sleep expert David F. Dinges, Ph.D., of the Division of Sleep and Chronobiology and Department of Psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, irritability, moodiness and disinhibition are some of the first signs a person experiences from lack of sleep. If a sleep-deprived person doesn’t sleep after the initial signs, said Dinges, the person may then start to experience apathy, slowed speech and flattened emotional responses, impaired memory and an inability to be novel or multitask. As a person gets to the point of falling asleep, he or she will fall into micro sleeps (5-10 seconds) that cause lapses in attention, nod off while doing an activity like driving or reading and then finally experience hypnagogic hallucinations, the beginning of REM sleep. (Dinges, Sleep, Sleepiness and Performance, 1991)

So not experiencing these consequences is a benefit itself, but what are other direct consequences of a good sleep that you would love to introduce in your life?

  • Sleep, learning, and memory: In the view of many researchers, evidence suggests that various sleep stages are involved in the consolidation of different types of memories and that being sleep deprived reduces one’s ability to learn. Although open questions (and debate) remain, the overall evidence suggests that adequate sleep each day is very important for learning and memory. One of the great benefits of sleep is that it allows your brain to better process new experiences and knowledge, increasing your understanding and retention. “If you are trying to learn something, whether it’s physical or mental, you learn it to a certain point with practice,” says Dr. Rapoport, who is an associate professor at NYU Langone Medical Center. “But something happens while you sleep that makes you learn it better.”
  • The more you sleep, the longer you live: Too much or too little sleep is associated with a shorter lifespan—although it’s not clear if it’s a cause or effect (illnesses may affect sleep patterns too). A study of almost 7,000 Alameda County residents, over a nine-year period, found that people who routinely slept six or fewer hours a night had about 70 percent higher risk of dying than did people of similar age who slept seven or eight hours a night.
  • Control body weight: Sleep helps regulate the hormones that affect and control your appetite. Studies have shown that when your body is deprived of sleep, the normal hormone balances are interrupted and your appetite increases. Unfortunately this increase in appetite doesn’t lead to a craving for fruits and veggies. Rather, your body longs for foods high in calories, fats, and carbohydrates.
  • Stress reduction: When your body is sleep deficient, it goes into a state of stress. The body’s functions are put on high alert which causes an increase in blood pressure and a production of stress hormones. Higher blood pressure increases your risk for heart attacks and strokes. The stress hormones also, unfortunately, make it harder for you to sleep.
  • Better mood: Sleep and mood are closely connected; poor or inadequate sleep can cause irritability and stress, while healthy sleep can enhance well-being. You probably know firsthand that sleep affects mood. After a sleepless night, you may be more irritable, short-tempered, and vulnerable to stress. Once you sleep well, your mood often returns to normal. Studies have shown that even partial sleep deprivation has a significant effect on mood. University of Pennsylvania researchers found that subjects who were limited to only 4.5 hours of sleep a night for one week reported feeling more stressed, angry, sad, and mentally exhausted. When the subjects resumed normal sleep, they reported a dramatic improvement in mood.

These are some of the benefits of sleep but there are many more, like immune system boosting, helps having a healthier heart, reduced chance of diabetes, sharpen attention, and as it also affects us physically, sleep improves muscle tone and skin appearance. With adequate sleep athletes run better, swim better and lift more weight. And the list continues, so what are you waiting for? It is now the time to change your sleeping habits.

Why we need to sleep betterWhy we need to sleep better

Sleep is not an option. It is essential. Lab rats chronically deprived of sleep eventually die. And humans are not much different. We need our sleep.

“That we are not much sicker and much madder than we are is due exclusively to that most blessed and blessing of all natural graces, sleep” Aldous Huxley.

Better sleep infographic

Tips for getting a good night’s sleep

16 things you didnt know about sleep

16 things you didn’t know about sleep

Interesting article: Sleep-deprived bees struggle to remember what they learn

Further information and sources:


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