It’s an undisputed fact that sleep is good for you, that your mind and body will suffer without it, but why is it so important and how much sleep is optimal for wellbeing?
To answer the latter question, seven hours is now accepted (although there are still a few naysayers who deny the 7 hour claim) as the benchmark for the amount of sleep we should strive for.
That is, unless you’re Maggie Thatcher or Bill Clinton, two famously indefatigable world leaders who – irrespective of what you think of their politics – managed incredibly well on roughly 4 hours sleep each night.
Sleep allows our body to repair and rejuvenate, through repairing tissue, boosting muscle mass, synthesising proteins and releasing growth hormones.
These processes are essential to developing the strong immune system we need to operate optimally on a day-to-day basis. Indeed, a study that exposed a cold virus to its subjects after monitoring their sleeping habits showed that subjects who had less than seven hours of sleep were three times as likely to get sick than those with eight hours of sleep.
Another benefit to sleeping well is weight management. See, when you don’t sleep enough, your leptin levels drop. This causes you to feel hungrier than usual, making you reach for those high-fat and high-calorie foods when you’re tired.
Mental: Mood, Emotion and Clarity
Ever noticed how, when you’re tired, you’re prone to crankiness and moodiness? That’s because lack of sleep negatively affects the way your emotions regulate, often increasing your stress levels through amplified anxiety and aggression. While sleep won’t eliminate your stress, it’ll increase your readiness to cope with it.
Studies have also shown that while we sleep, our brains process and consolidate memories, helping you to remember the important things in life. What’s more, losing sleep makes you more likely to make silly mistakes and impairs problem solving and your focus, as your brain neurons aren’t able to function optimally.
More importantly, our safety is compromised when sleep is disregarded. The Institute of Medicine highlights that 20% of auto accidents in the U.S. are the result of drowsy driving, resulting in 1 million crashes a year.
How to sleep better?
So with all those facts and stats in mind, how can you get a better night’s sleep? There’s a lot written about sleep positions, which can make a big difference. Also try to keep regular sleep times as this maintains your body clock’s circadian rhythm and avoid colourful and interactive stimuli – TVs, laptops, sugary foods etc. – which can cause unnecessary stress. A hot shower before bed is said to help relax your muscles too!
Hopefully, with these tips, you’ll sleep like a log and wake up fresh as a daisy. But for more information on sleep, be sure to read our previous articles on How to get a Good Night’s Sleep.