Sleep is just as important to your health and well-being as good nutrition, exercise, and stress management.
It's far too easy to stay awake at night watching TV, surfing the web, doing some last minute work, or just getting some 'me' time after the kids go to bed. However, getting enough sleep will not only refresh you for the oncoming day, it also has immediate and long-term beneficial effects on your physical, emotional, and mental health. The amount of sleep you get can affect the quality and longevity of your life.
While you're awake and active during the day, your body goes through lots of wear and tear. Sleep is your body's opportunity to repair any damage and keep your health at its best.
While you sleep, your body produces extra protein molecules that act to boost your immune system to fight infection and keep you healthy at a cellular level. Lack of sleep can also lead to higher blood pressures and irregular heartbeats due to this additional stress and less repair time.
We already know the problematic effects of stress on your body; proper rest forces your body to relax and release tensions from the day.
2. Weight control
People who have chronic sleep deprivation have been shown to have irregular metabolism. This causes changes in how the body stores energy (glucose) and impacts the production of hormones (such as the previously mentioned ghrelin that regulate appetite when you're awake). This can increase your appetite and lead to erratic and unhealthy eating and cravings. Unfortunately, this tends to be cravings for food high in immediate energy and calories to keep you awake, such as sugars, carbohydrates and fat. This change in metabolism and energy storage can also affect how insulin works on your cells to promote energy production, which can lead to Type 2 Diabetes.
Studies have indicated that those who regularly sleep less than five hours per night have increased risk of developing diabetes.
3. Learning and memory
Sleep helps the brain to learn new information better the following day and retain it. A study done on professional violinists showed that the top performers regularly got 8-9 hours of sleep each night as part of their training regime, two more than the average Brit or American. It also improves concentration, which is crucial when considering the impact of sleep deprivation and accidents at work or on the road.
It's common to tell if someone has had a restless night judging by his or her cranky attitude the next day. Often, a rough night will cause impatience, irritability, and 'fogginess.' Overtime, chronic lack of sleep can lead to long-term mood disorders such as depression and anxiety.
5. Beauty sleep
Though a popular belief, there may be some truth to getting your 'beauty sleep.' A recent study in Sweden tested the attractiveness of 23 people in a controlled test in accordance with the amount of sleep they were allowed to have. Overwhelmingly, the photos of the individuals when they were better rested were deemed to be more attractive.
Ample sleep can decrease the appearance of wrinkles, facial puffiness, and reduce blotchiness. Socially, people may also seem to be healthier when they appear to be less stressed and better rested.
Dr. Ralph Rogers is a consultant in Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine publishing articles to a Patient-Facing Medical Journal, where health specialists write articles on latest health topics in their field of expertise.