We’ve all been told that sleep is important, but it’s not everyday you hear why this is the case. Like anything else, fully understanding the benefits of sleep will likely motivate you to get more of it – so we suggest you put your brain to work now so that it can get the rest it needs later. There are endless reasons why sleep is important, and below we highlight five that (we hope!) will convince you to hit the hay.
Energy and Mood
Think about how often we blame our temper or laziness on a lousy slumber. It probably comes as no surprise that a poor night of sleep can affect how you feel the next day, but let’s break it down for you. Sleep deficiency wreaks havoc in the brain – impairing the way you think and act, and the amount of energy you have. With a lack of sleep comes a lack of enthusiasm, stamina, positivity, libido… the list goes on. The bottom line is that to be your best self – the person that you enjoy being and that others enjoy being around – sleep is essential.
Sleep improves our ability to process both analytical and emotional information. Studies have found that sleep-deprived individuals make significantly more errors in their work, and have a more difficult time recognizing social cues. When asleep, new knowledge is integrated into our base of existing knowledge. Therefore, a good night’s sleep is linked to test scores, work performance, and healthy relationships.
An overwhelming amount of evidence reveals that sleep hygiene translates into a healthy diet. When we don’t get enough sleep, we often turn to food to provide the energy we didn’t get from rest. Furthermore, exhaustion can lead to poor decision making – directing our focus on cravings rather than what is nutritious.
Restoration and Memory
Sleep allows us to consolidate and solidify memories. For something to become a memory, three steps need to occur: acquisition, consolidation, and recall. Acquiring and recalling memories are done when we are awake, but both episodic and fact-based memories are ingrained in our minds while we are sleeping. During sleep, the hippocampus and neocortex replay and review a day’s events – translating them into long-term memories.
Our immune systems are always at work, but they strengthen when we sleep. Warding off infections and illness is not easy for our immune systems, but the hours we rest give them the boost they need to raise our defenses. When a foreign body (known as a pathogen) enters our own, specialized T cells attach and tackle the pathogen. Research found that sleep enhances these T cell responses – because other receptors in the immune system are less active during sleep. Almost all adaptive immune responses require T cells to target a virus, so any steps that could improve their function – especially something as enjoyable as sleep – should be taken.
At the end of the day (literally!) sleep is extremely important to our well-being. If you don’t get the sleep you need, you will spend more hours doing less or doing worse. Get the rest you need to be present and at your best while awake.
by Brooke Kenerson