Your vitality starts and ends with your sleep. Bon Jovi was so off the mark when he sang “I’ll sleep when I’m dead” as more research emerges demonstrating the overwhelming importance of adequate sleep. Feeling groggy and fatigued certainly detract from your drive and motivation, however the negative impacts extend much further. Here are several other reasons to get a little more shut-eye tonight.
Sleep and cognitive function
If you want to “work smarter not harder” start with a good night’s sleep. Researchers have found that cognition and attention declines rapidly after 16 hours of being awake, resulting in poorer memory, decision making and vigilance. This is most commonly evident in car accidents where tired drivers have reduced alertness and slow processing speed of the situation. What’s worse is these impairments are often cumulative and become worse the longer you deprive yourself of sleep. So your habit of working late into the night could be proving counter-productive.
Sleep, mood and mental health
No doubt you already know this, but we become exceedingly more sensitive and reactive when we’re sleep-deprived. Your ability to tolerate stress plummets and you will react to a small stressor e.g. someone took my pen from my desk without asking, in a way that would normally be reserved for high stressors e.g. the room is on fire, everyone get out now. Short sleep duration is also associated with poor mental health and is common in people who suffer from anxiety and mood disorders. Even more significant is the link between poor sleep and suicide with sleep duration even being identified as a suicide risk factor.
Sleep and weight gain
Short sleep duration is associated with weight gain and obesity. Not so fun fact: the less you sleep, the more likely you will overeat. There are several contributing factors with one being the effect that sleep loss has on your appetite hormones, ghrelin (gre-lin) and leptin. Leptin, the hormone that tells your body when you are full, decreases secretions when you have insufficient sleep. To make matters worse, hunger triggering hormone, ghrelin, is amplified. This effect is like putting your foot on the accelerator and removing all the red lights. You will almost certainly overeat and over time this can lead to obesity.
Sleep and diabetes
Studies have shown that continuous insufficient sleep can lead to a 33% increased risk of type 2 diabetes. In addition to the above increased risk of obesity, lack of sleep impairs your cells ability to respond to insulin and therefore absorb glucose from the blood by up to 40%. Chronic sleep deprivation is a major contributor to the rise of type 2 diabetes in our modern world.
Sleep and heart health
Follow your heart, to the bedroom. Short sleep duration is associated with hypertension (high blood pressure) which can lead to heart disease, cardiac failure and stroke. Researchers have found that sleeping for short duration can increase the risk of hypertension by 20% when compared with recommended sleep periods. What’s more, the risk increases as you age.
How much is ‘enough’ sleep?
The short answer: 7 to 9 hours. Research shows that when sleep starts to fall below 6.5 hours or less, adverse health problems begin to emerge. This of course is age dependent with the Sleep Foundation having the below recommendations.
Recommended sleep duration
- Teens (14-17) – 8 to 10 hours
- Adults (18-65) – 7 to 9 hours
- Older adults (65+) – 7-8 hours
You will likely have your own ‘sweet spot’ where you feel your most optimal. If you don’t, realigning with your lifestyle with your circadian rhythm may help you achieve a more natural sleep/wake cycle. Personally, I can survive on 7 hours but I really thrive on 8 and it’s what I always aim for when planning my schedule and setting my alarm.
Trouble getting to sleep or never feeling fresh in the morning? Click here to discover simple but powerful changes you can make to improve your sleep and your health.
Sleep for your health
This is not an exhaustive list. Each night your body embarks on a literally lifesaving sleep-state quest to repair, maintain and enhance your metabolic, hormonal and cognitive functions. Your sleep is what provides you the energy to achieve everything you do every day. Your vitality starts and ends with your sleep. I hope that reading this will lead to you no longer fighting sleep, but prioritising and welcoming it each day.