Our sleep needs vary quite a bit. For most of us, it’s around eight hours a night. You might find that you need more and don’t feel quite right after only eight hours, which is also totally normal. Or, you may have a rare genetic mutation which means that you only need six hours a night and can function perfectly well long-term. But the main point here is that you need a quality rest. There are many benefits of a good night’s sleep.
Why talking about benefits of a good night’s sleep matters
Most of us can cope with a few small variations. The odd late night might leave you a little tired and grumpy or have not affect at all.
As long as you go back to eight hours as soon as you can, it won’t do any harm. You might also find that you have the odd catch-up. After a busy week, a few sleepless nights or a heavy workout session you might find that you sleep for over ten hours in one night.
As a one-off, this is also fine. It’s just your body’s way of telling you that a little extra rest is necessary and it’s taking the chance to catch up when it can. However, if this starts happening regularly for no clear reason and you struggle to open your eyes after a solid eight hours, you should see your GP as it might be a sign of an underlying health condition.
So, sleep is important, and if you are struggling to get enough, it’s a good idea to try some home remedies like CBT for insomnia, warm drinks before bed, cutting caffeine and sugar later in the day or increasing your activity levels. But, why is sleep so important? What are the real benefits of a good night’s sleep? Spoiler alert, there’s probably a lot more to it than you think. Let’s look at eight of the benefits of a good night’s sleep.
1. Feel better
This is perhaps the most obvious and noticeable benefit to a good night’s sleep. You’ll feel better. Getting out of bed in the morning will be much easier, you’ll feel alert and focused straight away, and your energy levels will stay level throughout the day. Without enough sleep, you might feel fine first thing in the morning but find energy dips later on in the day.
Sleep helps to keep you consistent too. If you get lots of sleep but still struggle to get going or feel sleepy in the afternoon, try making a few other lifestyle changes like exercising in the morning, drinking more water, and eating healthier snacks.
2. You’ll be less stressed
One of the main causes of a lack of sleep is stress. We lie awake at night worrying about problems or dreading the next day. We spend hours tossing and turning trying to find solutions or dwelling on or worries. Then, the next day you feel tired and have trouble concentrating.
Staying up worrying never helps. You’ll never come up with a good solution or let your stresses go in the early hours. Even if you do manage to do so, you likely struggle to put it to the back of your mind. This will only increase stress levels.
Getting a good night’s sleep gives the brain a chance to rest. This automatically reduces your stress levels and makes it easier to spot solutions to any issues. Try meditating before bed to help you to switch off and stop worrying.
3. Remember more
Your brain might be taking a rest from worrying while sleeping but that doesn’t mean that it’s not working hard. While your body is switched off, your brain is getting a different kind of workout. While you are in a deep sleep your brain is in a process we call consolidation. This is when it strengthens memories and practices (or consolidates) the skills learned that day.
Sometimes we stay up late revising or practicing something that we need to know the next day. You’d actually be better off learning the skill, practicing until you were tired, and then sleeping to let your brain consolidate the knowledge.
4. You might live longer
The science on this one is a bit complicated. Studies show that people who sleep the right amount can live longer than those who sleep too much or too little. But, people that are ill often sleep less or more than they should. So, it’s hard to know if sleep is a cause or an effect.
But, we do know that sleeping reduces stress levels, promotes good mental health, and helps your immune system to work at its best. This can help you to live longer, so there’s no doubt that sleep plays a big part in living a long and healthy life.
5. Reduce inflammation
Inflammation in your body can lead to a whole host of conditions and diseases. These include strokes, heart disease, premature ageing and diabetes. This inflammation can be anything from gum disease to a physical injury. It’s never good. Studies have shown that people who sleep for six hours or less have higher levels of inflammatory proteins in their blood, making them more likely to be affected.
6. You’ll be more creative
Do you ever find that a creative block is lifted after a great night’s sleep? This might be due to the consolidation process taking place, or because your brain has had time to restructure your thoughts. It might even just be because you are feeling more alert and relaxed, allowing your mind to wander down more creative avenues.
7. Healthy weight
Weight is something that many of us struggle with. It’s thought that nearly one-third of the world’s population is obese or overweight. There are many reasons for this, including confusing guidelines and information, cheap and unhealthy foods, a lack of time to cook, and not exercising. But, sleep also plays a role, and getting more is perhaps one of the easiest lifestyle changes to make when trying to lose weight.
Studies show that dieters who are sleep deprived lose more muscle mass than fat, and those that get a good night’s sleep can lose up to 56% more fat. A common problem with weight is also eating late at night when we’re bored and have nothing else to do. Going to bed earlier can dramatically reduce this risk.
8. Fewer accidents
Driver fatigue is a real risk, and more people need to know that. When you are tired, your judgement is impaired, your reaction times are slower, and you don’t think as fast. This can make you clumsier and more likely to be involved in an accident when driving. Getting a good night’s sleep means that you can think faster and your reflexes are sharper. Just being able to make a decision faster can help keep you safer.
The tips above are helpful, as is seeing your doctor for further advice and support. Don’t put off making good sleep a priority. It matters a lot, as you now know!
Top photo credit: Kinga Chichewicz at Unsplash.