The Benefits of Sleep - Eight Reasons it improves your Health
There are many factors that can interfere with a good night’s sleep. Even if we are no longer night feeding or tending to little wakers in the night, our hectic lives, pressure at work, family circumstances, stress and illness all play havoc with sleep.
For most of us it’s not possible to drop everything and implement drastic change, but the benefits of sleep don’t have to be a case of ‘all or nothing’. Increasing your sleep by as little as 15 minutes a night can immediately and drastically improve the way you feel and function.
Just do what you can, as soon as you can.
Here’s Mummy Mojo’s eight reasons for getting a good night’s sleep
1. You will Feel Happier
Waking up cranky and irritable is a bad way to start the day. When you are tired you are more likely to shout at the kids, snap at people or burst into tears. More sleep will put you in a better mood, give you greater patience and you’re more likely to have a smile on your face.
2. You will Accomplish More
It’s pretty hard to climb off the “wheel of life” when you barely have the energy to get through the day. Missing out on sleep could be costing you a lot more than you realise. Whether it’s testing the waters for a new career, embarking on a new healthy lifestyle, or even just trying out that hobby you’ve been shelving for so long, chances are it’s not going to happen when you’re frazzled and burnt out.
3. You will Focus More
Have you ever woken up after a bad night’s sleep feeling fuzzy and easily confused, like your brain can’t get out of first gear? Sleep loss affects how you think - it impairs your cognition, your memory, your judgement, your attention, your creativity and your decision-making. You are also more likely to make odd mistakes - like leaving your keys in the fridge by accident! Get enough sleep and you’ll get through the day feeling like you are winning rather than lagging behind. You will be more awesome and kick-ass at everything you do.
4. You will Cope Better
Overwhelm, worry and anxiety can cause mums to miss out on good quality sleep. But the more tired you are, the more stressed you become and the worse you sleep – it’s a vicious circle! A poor sleep cycle causes your body to release excessive cortisol in the evening. Stress hormones allow you to keep going, and are often the reason why you might suddenly feel awake in the evening after feeling tired all day.
With your central nervous system in overdrive, your “tired but wired” state keeps you buzzing all night long, you don’t get to bed as early as you should, and you are left groggy in the morning – so the poor sleep cycle continues. It is hard to unwind at night when you’ve spent the best part of the day jacked up on caffeine and sugar! A better sleep pattern will regulate your sleep cycle. This will help you to wind down and enjoy the benefits of relaxation in the evening, leaving you more refreshed in the morning and reducing your need for stimulants to keep you going throughout the day.
5. You will Glow More
There’s a reason why it’s called “beauty sleep”. Regular shut-eye actually makes you look healthier and more attractive. A chronic lack of sleep has an incredibly negative effect on the way we look. When we are asleep, our cells rebuild and repair themselves. If you don’t get enough sleep, your skin has less ability to repair and replenish itself. If you sleep badly, you are more likely to become stressed, and this can cause the capillaries to tighten up, affecting the flow of nutrients to the skin and scalp and causing the skin and hair to look dull. A good night’s sleep will do more to make you look younger, healthy and attractive than any expensive beauty treatment. Sleep is the most powerful rejuvenating treatment of them all.
6. You will Feel More Sexy
The better rested you are, better sex life you’ll have, according to research. The 2010 “Sleep In America” poll found that 20-30 per cent felt their family life and sexual relationships had been affected by their sleepiness. Whilst there are many factors at play when it comes to quality and quantity of bedroom activity, such as how attractive and confident we feel, being too tired to even consider it is not a good start.
7. You will Feel Better
Health and wellness is the cornerstone of a life full of vitality, mojo and sparkle. Getting a good night’s sleep is vital to general health and wellness. Study after study has found a link between insufficient sleep and some serious health issues, like heart disease, heart attacks, diabetes, obesity and depression. It can even help you live longer – studies have found people who routinely sleep for fewer than six hours a night have a higher risk of dying sooner than people of similar age who sleep for seven or eight hours a night.
Lack of sleep can also lead to increased pain. Backache, tummy ache, headache, when you’re tired it seems that everything hurts. Physical repair takes place while you’re sleeping, and it happens in the first half of the night – generally around 10pm to 2am. If you miss out on those vital first few hours your body doesn’t have enough time to rejuvenate your muscles or cells.
8. You will Manage Your Weight
Getting enough sleep can help you maintain your weight - and conversely, sleep loss goes along with an increased risk of weight gain. In fact a recent study revealed the risk of developing obesity rose 23% with just 6 hours of sleep per night, 50% with 5 hours per night, and 73% with 4 hours per night.
Skimping on sleep sets your brain up to make bad decisions. It’s a little like being drunk – you don’t have the mental clarity to make good decisions. Plus, when you’re overtired, your brain’s reward centres rev up, looking for something that feels good, usually junk food. So while you may be able to quash comfort food cravings when you’re well rested, your sleep-deprived brain may have more trouble saying no.
These cravings are not just in your head. When you don’t have enough sleep your brain continually sends out urgent messages for quick energy. This is a survival instinct – it’s all about keeping you as alert and focused as possible. Willpower alone can’t override these cravings – not when you’re fighting your own physiology.
SO HOW MUCH SLEEP IS ENOUGH?
The recommended amount of sleep you should be getting a night is 7-9 hours (so long as you’re fit and healthy). Don’t obsess too much though; you’ll know when you’ve not been getting enough sleep. Apart from the obvious of feeling tired as soon as you open your eyes in the morning, other symptoms such as a foggy “hung-over” feeling, headaches, feeling over-emotional, or a general crankiness are all signs that you didn’t get enough sleep.