Everyone knows that sleep is important, even if we’re not quite sure why. Usually it’s something about recharging, like we’re a battery and not a person. We could be right in thinking that we’re all a bunch of Cylons, but the truth is that even scientists haven’t totally figured out why we sleep, even though we’ve gone to great lengths to test hypothesis after hypothesis in order to extract the various benefits of sleeping.
Slumber is a mysterious part of our lives, and we all know - at some level - that sleep makes us feel better. More alert, energetic. Happier. Sleep, like eating, is one of our deep functions, regulated by processes that we’re still trying to understand all the facets of. We have come a long way from “Me hungry. Me eat.” and “Me tired. Me sleep,” but we still have a long ways to go before science gets the whole picture.
Here are some things that science has figured out, though, and a couple of reasons why you should sleep more:
If you’re trying to lose weight, sleep more.
There are a lot of studies that support the correlation between poor sleep and risk of obesity. The observation is that the shorter the sleep duration is, the more a person tends to weigh relative to those who get enough snoozin’. This isn’t to say that good health is reliant solely on getting enough sleep, just that it’s another factor just as important as regular exercise and a healthy diet.
An added perk to good sleep is that adequate sleep actually reduces your urge to eat more calories than necessary. This is because of the interaction of sleep and the production of leptin, the hormone that suppresses appetite. When you aren’t sleeping enough, it disrupts your natural hormone production which leads to poor appetite regulation: your body produces more of the hormone that stimulates appetite, ghrelin, than it should be while simultaneously reducing the levels of leptin. This out of whack-ness means that you’ll want to eat more than you need to, which makes weight management more difficult than necessary.
If you want to have a super brain, sleep more.
Harvard has a great page that goes in depth on the research that suggests quality sleep’s role in memory and our ability to learn. The truth is that nearly the whole gamut of cognition can be negatively affected by inadequate sleep, and that good sleep goes beyond just remembering and academic learning. Concentration, performance, productivity: good sleep is the key to efficient problem-solving and maximizing brain function. A study even concluded that poor sleep has a similar degree of cognitive impairment as booze. If you wouldn’t drive drunk, don’t drive tired. If you wouldn’t get drunk every night, why would you continue to get poor sleep? Treat yourself right. Get a super brain. Take Reboot.
I mean, what a slogan, you know?
If you keep getting sick, sleep more.
There’s a reason why your doctor, dad, and professor agree that you need to stay in bed when you’re sick: sleeping strengthens your immune system. Did you know that people who slept less than seven hours are three times more likely to develop a cold than folks who got enough sleep? Even a single night of inadequate sleep can weaken your immune system, which is why it is imperative to get enough sleep as often as possible. Granted, the “correct” amount of sleep can vary person to person, but between seven and eight hours is a pretty acceptable sweet spot.
What’s more, poor sleep has been linked to inflammation issues in the digestive tract, mental health struggles like depression, and early diabetes. Beyond relying on sleep as a remedy to illness, it’s imperative to get enough regular, quality sleep to be preventative.
It’s worth restating that sleep is one of the most important aspects to monitor if you’re at all concerned about your health and well-being. I’m in a constant state of rediscovery when it comes to sleep education - I blame this learning on the privilege of being apart of a company concerned with the sleep habits of our culture.
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