Why sleep is important
I woke up in the middle of the night last night and couldn't get back to sleep for what felt like ages. Today my concentration and patience levels are definitely lower than normal! And I'm craving chocolate and don't feel like exercising! Lack of sleep has definitely affected me. So, why is getting a good night's sleep so important?
- Health benefits of a good night's sleep.
- Memory and focus.
- Mental health.
- Productivity and safety.
- Physical health.
- Metabolism and weight.
- Sleep more and you will eat better - a study.
Health benefits of a good night's sleep
Regular, good quality sleep is one of the three essentials for a healthy lifestyle along with nutrition and exercise. While you're asleep your body is hard at work healing itself and optimising different processes.
When you sleep your body:
- Heals damaged cells.
- Boosts your immune system.
- Recovers from the day’s activities.
- Recharges your heart and cardiovascular system for the next day.
The result is better physical and mental health when you wake up in the morning.
There are many health benefits to having regular, good quality sleep:
Memory and focus
- You’re better able to focus and learn and it’s easier to keep your attention on something long enough to learn it and remember it.
- Sleep sharpens your mind so that you can think clearly.
- Sleep helps you excel at school and work.
- Without healthy sleep you are more likely to be forgetful and make mistakes.
- You feel happier!
- When you’re sleep-deprived your emotions are harder to control.
- You feel more stressed and you find it tougher to cope with upsetting things.
Productivity and safety
- You are more productive.
- At work you’ll notice that you get through tasks faster and make fewer mistakes.
- Sleep keeps you alert and helps you to react quickly.
- Without healthy sleep you are more likely to have an accident at work or while driving.
- You won’t get sick as often.
- Your immune system needs sleep to stay strong and fight off colds and other infections.
- In the long-term, getting plenty of sleep helps reduce your risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes and other chronic diseases.
Metabolism and weight
- You’re less hungry.
- Sleeping helps regulate two important hormones: ghrelin, which makes you feel hungry, and leptin, which makes you feel full.
- If you don’t get enough sleep, those hormones don’t act correctly and you feel hungrier.
- This is one of the reasons why people who are sleep-deprived are more likely to struggle with their weight.
Sleep more and you will eat better - a study
A team at King's College London found that increasing the amount of sleep a person gets can lead to them eating fewer sugary foods and making better food choices.
The team led by Wendy Hall, enlisted 42 volunteers to help them investigate the link between sleep and diet. 50% of the volunteers were given advice on how to get more sleep, such as avoiding caffeine before bed, establishing a relaxing routine and trying not to go to bed feeling either too full or hungry. This advice was intended to help increase the amount of sleep they got each night by 90 minutes. The remaining 21 participants acted as the control group, receiving no helpful sleep advice.
Results for the advised group showed that 86% spent more time in bed and around half slept for longer than they used to. They also reduced their free sugars intake by an average of 10 grams per day and ate fewer carbs. The control group showed no significant changes in their dietary habits. (Free sugars include any sugar added to food as well as honey, syrups and fruit juice.)
Hall stated, “The fact that extending sleep led to a reduction in intake of free sugars suggests that a simple change in lifestyle may really help people to consume healthier diets”.
A previous study in 2011, followed more than 1500 middle-aged people for six years and found that the people who became obese during that time slept an average of 6.3 hours a night, whereas those who maintained a healthier body weight slept for an average of 7.2 hours each night.
So, if you're trying to reduce your sugar and/or carb intake, think about going to bed a bit earlier each night snuggled up in your scooms duvet!
Journal reference: American Journal of Clinical Nutrition