Looking to Improve Your Health this Year? Sleep on It!
In the busy, goal-oriented world we live in, getting more sleep probably isn’t on very many people’s to-do list. Many people see sleeping as a waste of time and may even take medications or drink caffeinated beverages to help keep them alert. But sleep plays a critical role in maintaining a healthy mind and body. Here are just a few ways sleep can improve your health.
Help prevent disease
Numerous studies have shown that a good night’s sleep may help prevent several serious conditions and diseases, such as heart disease, diabetes and obesity. Usually, the increased risk from lack of sleep becomes serious after many years of deprivation. However, one study showed that people who had gone through induced disturbed sleep patterns developed blood glucose levels that qualified as pre-diabetic after just four days.
Reduce your risk of injury
Sleep deprivation can be deadly. The Institute of Medicine estimates that one out of five auto accidents in the US are a result of drowsy driving. Jodi A. Mindell, Ph.D., author of the book Sleep Deprived No More, says that when you’re overtired, you’re more likely to trip, fall off a ladder, or cut yourself while chopping vegetables. Even the most innocuous household chores can become hazardous when you aren’t fully rested.
Eliminate brain waste
Several studies have shown that your brain has a wonderful way of eliminating toxic waste, including beta-amyloid proteins, which are associated with Alzheimer’s disease. These studies also discovered that the system that accomplishes this feat is 10 times more active during sleep. So if you’re not getting enough quality sleep, your brain can’t eliminate waste efficiently. A study from the University of California, Berkeley, discovered that poor sleep caused more buildup of beta-amyloid proteins and that this buildup affected people’s ability to sleep well, a classic vicious cycle. The good news is that poor sleep is a highly treatable condition.
Improve your mood
You’ve probably experienced this firsthand. Many of us are familiar with being more irritable after a bad night’s sleep. Even mild sleep deprivation can have a significant effect on your mood. University of Pennsylvania researchers discovered that healthy, young adults who had their sleep reduced by 33 percent for one week reported higher levels of fatigue, confusion and tension than the control group. When they resumed normal sleep, their moods improved.
A lack of sleep can hinder the ability of the frontal lobe of your brain – which governs decision-making and impulse control – to perform at its best. Additionally, when you’re tired, the brain starts seeking out something to make it feel better, making it harder to resist food cravings. A study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that people who were sleep-deprived tended to eat more late-night snacks and were most likely to choose high-carb snacks.
Boost your ability to perform
Whether you’re an athlete, a brainiac, or pursue creative endeavors, a good night’s sleep will help you perform at your peak. A Stanford University study found that college basketball players who extended their sleep to 10 hours a night or longer improved sprint times and shooting accuracy. You may have heard the phrase “Let me sleep on it.” Researchers have discovered that your brain is very active during sleep. If you learn something new, sleeping may help you retain your knowledge longer. If you have an issue that needs solving, catching some ZZZs may help you discover a solution to your problem.
Can’t sleep for eight full hours? Take a nap!
Many of us have trouble sleeping a full eight hours a night. If getting a good night’s sleep is a challenge for you, what can you do? Take a nap! Several studies have shown that a nap can help improve memory and improve one’s ability to perform several tasks. Axel Mecklinger, a professor at Saarland University in Germany, headed a team of researchers that conducted a study of the effect of napping on memory. The results of his study are clear. According to Mecklinger, “Even a short sleep lasting 45 to 60 minutes produces a five-fold improvement in information retrieval from memory.” An earlier study by NASA and the Federal Aviation Administration revealed that cockpit naps (while the pilots are still in the air) of up to 40 minutes for pilots who are on flights longer than seven hours helped them stay more alert.