Is Sleep Important?
You hear it all the time – if you want to be healthy, get enough sleep. But is sleep important? Anyone who has suffered from insomnia can tell you that sleep is just as vital as eating or drinking water. Without enough of it, you feel miserable. Lose sleep for a few days and you may even find yourself hallucinating.
Insomnia and other sleep problems are widespread in modern society. In fact, 62% of adults worldwide have trouble sleeping. The quality and duration of your sleep can affect your mental and physical health in many ways.
Good Sleep Can Help You Stay Focused and Productive
It should come as no surprise that sleeping well can help you stay focused and productive throughout the day. Sleep plays a vital role in a variety of brain functions, including concentration and performance.
One study found that sleep deprivation's effect on brain function is similar to alcohol intoxication.
A good night’s sleep, on the other hand, can improve memory and problem-solving skills.
Poor Quality Sleep is Linked to Weight Gain
Poor sleep has been linked to weight gain and obesity. People who don’t get enough sleep generally weigh more than people who are well-rested. Lack of sleep is one of the biggest risk factors for obesity.
How does sleep affect your weight? Researchers believe that sleep affects hormones that impact your weight as well as your motivation to stay active.
Those who get enough sleep typically eat fewer calories. Sleep deprivation can interfere with your appetite hormones, making it harder for your body to regulate your appetite. Poor sleep leads to higher hormone levels that stimulate your appetite (ghrelin) and lower levels of the hormone that suppresses your appetite (leptin).
So, if your goal is to maintain a healthy weight, make sleep a top priority.
Poor Sleep Can Make Your Chronic Pain Worse
When you suffer from chronic pain, the quality and duration of your sleep can have an affect on your symptoms.
Research has found that poor sleep quality, fragmented sleep and short sleep duration can increase your sensitivity to pain. Sleep problems can also increase your risk of migraines and fibromyalgia.
The good news is research has also found that quality sleep can improve symptoms of chronic pain over the long-term.
Chronic pain and sleep deprivation can create a vicious cycle. Some types of chronic pain are worse at night, which can make it more difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep. A poor night’s sleep can then make the pain worse the next day, and the cycle continues.
Part of the problem is that pain and sleep appear to share similar neurotransmitters and pathways. Melatonin, for example, regulates your circadian rhythm, but it also impacts your perception of pain.
Pain and poor sleep can also impact your ability or motivation to exercise. Physical activity also plays an essential role in the quality of your sleep.
Good Sleep Can Boost Immune Function
Sleep gives your body a chance to rest and repair. If you’re not getting enough rest, many of your body’s systems suffer, and that includes your immune system. Even minor sleep deprivation can impact your immune function.
In one study, participants were given nasal drops that contained the cold virus. In addition, researchers found that those who got fewer than 7 hours of sleep were three times more likely to get a cold than those who got at least 8 hours of sleep.
If you have a tendency to develop colds and other illnesses throughout the year, try getting more sleep. It may just help improve your immune function.
Poor Sleep May Increase Inflammation
Chronic inflammation has been linked to a host of health problems, from inflammatory bowel disease to heart disease and cancer. While diet and exercise can cause or reduce inflammation, poor sleep can actually activate markers of cell damage and inflammation.
Poor quality sleep has been shown to:
- Increase the risk of inflammatory bowel disease
- Increase the risk of relapse in patients with Chron’s disease
Research has found that sleeping six hours or less can lead to higher levels of C-reactive protein, which has been linked to heart attack risk.
Over the long term, inflammation can wreak havoc on the body. Taking every step possible to keep chronic inflammation in check can help stave off disease and may even help with chronic pain. In many cases, chronic pain is at least partly caused by inflammation.
Good Sleep May Help You Live Longer
Want to add more years to your life? Sleep may help – just don’t overdo it. Too much or too little sleep may shorten your lifespan. Good Slee
One systemic review found that excessive sleep (more than 8 hours) and short duration sleep (between 4-7 hours) were both associated with an increased risk of death.
Good Sleep Can Spark Creativity
Just as sleep can affect your productivity, it can also affect your creativity. When you get enough sleep, your brain is able to consolidate your memories and restructure them, which can boost your creativity.
The emotional aspects of memories are also enhanced by a good night’s sleep, and that can also spark creativity.
Good Sleep Can Improve Your Athletic Performance
Want to improve your performance at the gym or on the field? Make sure that you’re getting enough sleep at night. A good night’s sleep can help you perform at your best.
In fact, one study found that basketball players who slept longer had better accuracy, speed and reaction times. Well-rested players also had a better overall mental outlook.
Sleep deprivation, on the other hand, can hinder your performance significantly. One study found that poor sleep made it harder for older women to walk and perform daily independent activities.
Sleep is vital to your overall health and well-being. Getting just the right amount of rest can help you feel more energized and ready to tackle the day. Poor sleep, on the other hand, can make it harder to stay focused and can make chronic pain even worse. It’s important to make sleep a priority and do your best to get a good night’s rest every night.
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