We continually seek ways to improve our lives, but we often ignore the obvious. Along with healthy eating and exercise there’s something else we can control: sleep.
If you want a dramatic transformation in your life, take a few days off work to improve your sleep pattern. It’s one of the best things you can possibly do with your time!
So many of us have problems sleeping that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) now consider this a public health epidemic. Some people can function normally on a few hours of sleep, but these people are very few and far between. Nearly half the U.S. population suffers from lack of sleep, with 40% getting less sleep than the recommended seven to nine hours per night. Children and teenagers need even more.
Getting too much sleep isn’t good either, because it also presents a number of health risks. But since just 5% of people regularly sleep over nine hours a night, this really isn’t a big problem.
The lives of at least 40% of people in the U.S. would greatly improve if they got more sleep, and you could be one of them.
How your life will improve if you get more sleep
You’ll be happier.
After a poor night’s sleep your day can be ruined. We’ve all experienced it, and scientific research substantiates it. One study is notable. It tracked 909 employed women. The results of the study showed that their happiness was just as much affected by a poor night’s sleep as the pressures of work deadlines. The study also showed that lack of sleep affected their mood even more than the big differences in income in the group.
You’ll be more focused and productive at home and work.
When you’re tired, it’s difficult to concentrate on the task at hand and you can become easily distracted. This can be detrimental to your work and life in general. Studies show that tasks requiring focus and attention appear to be affected most by lack of sleep. So if you are doing something that requires focus, whether at work or in your personal life, you need to be well rested.
Your sex life will improve.
When you don’t get enough sleep, it can adversely affect your libido, leading to erectile dysfunction in men. A good night’s sleep raises testosterone levels, restoring the sex drive in both men and women.
You’ll take fewer risks with your money.
People who are tired take more risks in financial decisions. Rather than attempting to minimize their chances of losing money they start seeking big gains even if it’s risky. This is why you need to get a good night’s sleep before buying something expensive. It also makes you wonder why people working on Wall Street work such crazy hours.
You’ll find it easier to build muscle.
You may have noticed that health and fitness articles always put a lot of emphasis on sleep. According to fitness experts it’s impossible to build muscle without sufficient sleep.
When you’re asleep (except during REM sleep), your body spends most of the time repairing the tissue damage that occurred when you were awake and active. Beginning in the evening and when you’re in slow wave sleep mode, growth hormones are being released in the body. This is why lack of sleep is associated with muscle atrophy.
Lack of sleep can lead to diabetes.
People who don’t get enough sleep are more likely to get diabetes. Type 2 diabetes is a terrible disease that can lead to blindness, strokes, damaged organs, and possible amputations. And we’re not just talking about people who are obese. Even if you are thin but don’t sleep enough, this still applies.
The fewer hours of sleep you usually get, the more apt you are to develop a health problem. Adults who routinely sleep just 6 hours a night are 1.7 times more likely to get diabetes than adults who sleep 7-8 hours a night. People who get 5 hours of sleep a night are 2.5 times more likely to be diagnosed with diabetes.
Learning is easier.
This doesn’t just impact children. Studies show that adults perform better in short-term memory tests when they get sufficient sleep. Researchers gave adults a task to perform, made sure that they had a good night’s sleep, and asked them to try it again. When they did, their performance improved. But those who remained awake for 30 hours after initially performing the task found it far more difficult to improve their skills even after practicing and getting some sleep to recover. Being deprived of sleep hampered their ability to learn.
Ensuring that children get enough sleep is vital. One study showed that when the school day began an hour later (8:30 rather than 7:30) scores in standardized tests improved by at least 2% in math and 1% in reading. When the school district In Minneapolis began starting the school day at 8:45 rather than 7:15, the attendance was much better and symptoms of depression in students decreased.
You won’t be annoyed as easily or become upset as easily.
When you don’t get enough sleep, you can become more emotionally volatile and get irritated and upset more easily. An Israeli team of researchers published a study which concluded that lack of sleep magnifies negative emotions triggered by small incidents like just being interrupted. The studied subjects were medical residents who are often sleep deprived.
You’ll be less inclined to make dangerous mistakes.
While we’re not always aware of it, when we don’t get sufficient sleep, we are more inclined to make mistakes. We might only be talking about one or two typos here and there, but this carelessness can result in something quite serious.
In 2003 it was determined that medical residents should work no more than 80 hours a week with no shifts that exceeded 24 hours. The governing body changed the regulations accordingly. A Harvard study later concluded that by cutting the hours down even more to a maximum of 63 per week medical residents slept more, which resulted in even fewer serious mistakes. The participants in the study that were sleep deprived made 22% more serious mistakes.
Well known catastrophic accidents, like when the tanker Exxon Valdez spilt oil and the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded, were ascribed in part to mistakes made by people who hadn’t had enough sleep. The fact is that any worker who is sleep deprived is far more likely to have a serious accident. A study done in Sweden involving 50,000 participants found that people suffering from lack of sleep were twice as likely to be killed in an accident.
Sleeping well helps in staying fit.
Many research studies show that people who get less sleep are more likely to become obese. One research study tracked 500 participants for 13 years. Results showed that subjects who frequently got less than 7 hours of sleep a night were 7.5 times more likely to be overweight. These results were reached after examining family history, demographics, and level of physical activity. Researchers surmise that this is primarily due to changes in hormone levels due to sleep deprivation. Apparently, lack of sleep increases appetite. Therefore one very powerful tip for people trying to get slimmer is to get sufficient sleep.
Your driving will improve, making you safer.
Tired driving is equivalent to drunk driving. Both are dangerous and a common cause of accidents. When tested, driving sleepy is just as dangerous as driving under the influence of alcohol.
The National Sleep Foundation claims that sleepy drivers are the cause of 100,000 vehicle crashes a year, resulting in 1,500 deaths. Nearly 20% of crashes causing serious injuries involve a sleepy driver.
You’ll be less prone to catching colds.
Going out in cold weather won’t make you more prone to catching a cold, but if you’re exposed to someone who has one, you can catch it from them. Lack of sleep weakens the immune system, which makes you far more likely to catch a cold when you’re exposed to the virus. In one study 153 people were exposed to the common cold. Results showed that those who had less than 7 hours of sleep a night were nearly 3-times more likely to catch the virus.
Sufficient sleep puts you in a better mood with less anxiety and depression.
People who get less sleep tend to suffer more from anxiety and depression and have lower self-esteem. Though it’s possible that symptoms of anxiety, depression, and lower self-esteem are actually what cause people to be awake at night. Still, research shows that lack of sleep has a stronger effect on someone’s mood than it does on their motor function or cognitive ability. This strongly suggests that getting more sleep could lift your mood.
People who sleep more have healthier, more vibrant skin.
Aside from a propensity for mood disorders, when you sleep poorly you are more likely to suffer from chronic skin conditions. Research shows that people who sleep poorly are more prone to persistent skin problems.
Clinical & Experimental Dermatology published a study which found that the skin of people who sleep well recovered better and faster after being exposed to ultraviolet light. Their skin also bounced back more quickly from adhesive bandages being stripped off. The study revealed that people who get sufficient sleep have fewer signs of aging.
Teenagers who get sufficient sleep are less likely to abuse alcohol.
The Institute of Medicine says that sleep problems and alcohol abuse are linked. Adolescents who have difficulty sleeping are more likely to abuse alcohol. Alcohol abusers tend to have problems with sleeping. So there is the question which problem came first.
Still, researchers believe that when someone’s circadian rhythm is disrupted, changes occur in the reward system of the brain. This leads to teenagers being more likely to engage in risky behaviors, including using and abusing alcohol.
You’ll be healthier and spend less money on medical treatments.
People who sleep less use 11% more medical resources than people who get sufficient sleep. People suffering from insomnia, sleep apnea, and other sleep disorders cost the country billions of dollars in direct medical expenses every year without factoring in associated lost productivity.
Your reactions will be quicker.
Studies have been done on West Point cadets and college athletes who are quite fit with excellent reaction times to begin with. Losing one night’s sleep isn’t going to necessarily affect anyone’s strength, but after not sleeping for a night people’s reactions do slow down. The researchers think that this could be due to being less able to process information when making decisions.
Your vision will improve if you get a sufficient amount of sleep.
When we don’t get enough sleep, our bodies are tired, and so are our eyes. The longer you go without sleep, the more difficult it is to see clearly. You might start with tunnel vision, progress to seeing double, and even begin to hallucinate.
Your odds of developing some types of cancer are lowered.
People who work irregular shifts and therefore have their circadian cycles disrupted which causes them to be sleep deprived are likely to develop serious health conditions. Researchers have found an association between night workers and the likelihood of developing breast and/or colon cancer.
Sufficient sleep can prevent headaches and migraines.
If you suddenly get hit with a headache, think about how much sleep you’ve been getting. Although physicians don’t know for sure why this occurs, a number of studies reveal that people who don’t get sufficient sleep are more prone to migraines. One study concluded that lack of sleep is linked to episodic migraines. Furthermore studies show that 36-58% of people suffering from sleep apnea often have a pounding headache when they wake up.
People who routinely get sufficient sleep are less prone to heart problems.
One large research study found that getting 5 hours or less of sleep a night was linked to a 45% higher risk of heart attacks. When you prevent people from sleeping, their blood pressure goes up. Even healthy young men in this study who only got 3.6 hours of sleep one night showed significant, although temporary, changes.
After a good night’s sleep people feel less pain.
When people don’t get enough sleep, their sensitivity to pain increases. This can bring about a vicious cycle for people suffering from chronic pain. Tests show that when people are kept awake all night, it makes it easier for them to feel pain. Evidence shows that lack of sleep can impede the pain relieving processes of certain drugs. On the other hand, plenty of sleep can act as a mild pain relieving medication.