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Published on July 5, 2018

A Lack of Sleep May Slowly Kill You: Benefits of Sleep You Need to Know

A Lack of Sleep May Slowly Kill You: Benefits of Sleep You Need to Know

I’m always on the lookout for ways to transform my life and that of my clients. Sometimes we all go to great lengths to find the newest skill, habit or capability to change our life.

But if we looked a little closer to home we would find one very simple, often overlooked thing we can do to make us happier, increase our performance and improve our focus and attention.

Even better, that thing is completely within our control and is something we do every night. That thing is sleep.

Getting the right amount of sleep every night can improve our health, reduce our stress levels and help us improve our memory and learning skills.

In this article, I will look into the benefits of sleep and why you should care.

The epidemic of sleep deprivation

Sleep problem is so bad that the World Health Organisation (WHO) has described it as a ‘sleep loss epidemic’ with two thirds of adults in developed nations not getting the recommended 8 hours of sleep a night.

In its simplest terms, those of us who have the capacity to have a good night’s sleep just aren’t sleeping enough.

In the US, 35% of adults are not getting 8 hours of sleep every night. In Canada it is 30% and in the UK it is 37%. In Japan, the average time spent asleep is just 6 hours and 22 minutes.

Global policy think-tank, RAND corporation, concluded in 2017 that insufficient sleep was a ‘public health problem, costing the global economy billions in lost productivity each year.

In the National Sleep Foundation’s 2018 Sleep in America Poll, only 10% of respondents prioritised sleep, with fitness/nutrition and work being seen as a much higher priority.

So, with our busy lives and trying to cram in as much as we can every day, have we forgotten the real benefits of getting a good night’s sleep?

Have we forgotten how we feel after a lack of sleep or really understand how bad it is for us not to get a good night’s sleep?

The negative effects of lack of sleep

Sleep deprivation is just really bad for us. Lack of sleep has a lot of negative effects on our physical and mental health.

These include:

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  • Getting more stressed out
  • High blood pressure
  • Slower reaction time
  • Focus and your attention span diminishes
  • Lower sex drive
  • More prone to bursts of anger and sadness
  • Less creative and mentally exhausted
  • Judgement becomes impaired
  • Immune system gets weaker
  • Becoming more forgetful
  • Getting easily distracted
  • Higher chance of heart disease and stroke
  • More at risk of getting diabetes
  • Gaining more weight

Benefits of sleep (that you never realized)

If we took a step back from our busy lives and prioritized sleep again, the benefits are huge. Let’s look at some of the key benefits:

1. You’ll be happier.

If you sleep poorly, it can ruin your day. You feel sluggish and brain fog can often creep in. An exhausted person is not a happy person. S/he is prone to making snap judgements and feeling more stressed than someone who has had a full 8 hours of shut eye.

You know when you feel well rested, you get out of bed with a bounce in your step ready to take control of your day.

Being well-rested has a significant effect on your daily happiness. Daniel Kahneman and Alan B. Krueger found in their research on life satisfaction a direct correlation between sleep quality and overall happiness.

When you sleep well, your motivation will increase and you’ll be more creative. You’ll just feel more positive and problems will feel solvable. You’ll just feel more optimistic about things.

Focus on getting 8 hours sleep every day for a week and see the difference it makes in your daily happiness.

2. It sharpens your attention span.

Our minds work better when we’ve had a good sleep. We can stay focused for longer and our attention span becomes sharper. Any of us who’ve faced a continual lack of sleep knows how difficult it is to concentrate fully.

When our mind is not fully rested, it starts slowing down and we become easily distracted. We struggle to solve problems as effectively and efficiently as we would do if fully rested.

After a good night’s sleep, we can react quicker and analyze information faster. We should never make important decisions after a lack of sleep as we wouldn’t be investing our full brain power and attention on the subject at hand.

3. It improves your memory.

When we sleep, the brain is hard at work processing the moments and experiences we had during the day. Pieces of knowledge are pulled together to make connections and solve problems, helping us to increase performance the following day.

Have you noticed that when you go to sleep with a question in your mind, you sometimes wake up the next day with a solution to the problem?

Sleeping on a problem does help you get the answer. Your memories and skills are being shifted to more efficient and permanent brain regions, increasing our learning, memory and problem solving ability.

4. You’ll have better sex.

Not getting enough sleep, no matter how strong your libido is, can be sure to impact performance in the bedroom.

Sleep is restorative and increases testosterone levels, boosting the sex drive of both men and women.

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If you never get enough sleep and you feel exhausted, this will lead to an unhealthy relationship. If frustration builds in this area, then relationship issues may occur.

So, get a good night’s sleep to ensure the magic in the bedroom doesn’t go away.

5. It promotes healthy muscle building.

There’s a reason that a lot of elite athletes focus on getting enough sleep. If you don’t sleep properly, you can’t build muscle.

When we’re sleeping, our body enters an anabolic state and uses that time to heal damage to our cells and tissues.

Our body creates spikes in human growth hormone, testosterone and melatonin. They all play a huge role in the reproduction and regeneration of cells within the body.

Put simply, without enough sleep, your body won’t be able to properly restore the damage done to your muscles during the day.

6. It can affect your weight, for the better.

One thing your doctor or nutritionist will tell you if you want to lose weight is get plenty of sleep.

Not only do we have more energy after a good night’s sleep but our body also burns calories. If we’re not sleeping well at night, we could be causing hormonal imbalances that could make you feel hungry more often when we don’t really need to eat.

If we aren’t getting enough sleep, we are more likely to be hungry. We’re more likely to snack on unhealthy food because the body needs more energy to stay awake. This can lead to weight gain.

If you’re tired all the time, you’ll be less motivated to go for a walk or hit the gym, affecting physical health.

If you eat well and rest up properly, your body will thank you for it.

7. It helps reduce stress.

Stress can really affect us emotionally, physically and psychologically. High stress levels can make sleeping more difficult; conversely, getting a good night’s sleep can reduce the effects of stress.

When we are tired, we’re less patient, more frustrated and easily agitated which can increase stress levels. This may increase blood pressure and affect our cholesterol levels.

A good night’s sleep allows you to tackle the day’s stresses much more easily.

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8. You will have healthier skin.

Sleeping badly is associated with chronic skin conditions. When we’re sleep deprived, our body makes more of the stress hormone cortisol.

Elevated levels of cortisol increase stress levels but also can cause inflammation in the body, which affects the quality of our skin.

This increased inflammation can lead to an increase in the breakdown of collagen and hyaluronic acid, the molecules that give our skin its glow and bounce.

When we’re sleeping, our body’s hydration rebalances. Our skin recovers moisture while excess water is processed for removal.

Not getting our ideal amount of sleep results in poor water balance, leading to puffy bags under our eyes, under eye circles as well as more skin dryness and more visible wrinkles.

On top of that, not getting enough sleep can accelerate the aging process. When we’re in deep sleep, the rise in growth hormones allows damaged cells to repair. Without this, daily small breakdowns will accumulate instead of being reversed overnight.

Get more shut eye to get glowing, healthy skin every morning.

9. It boosts immunity from sickness.

A lack of sleep can severely impair your immune system and make you more vulnerable to infections like cold and flu.

Our immune system is responsible for battling bacteria, viruses and other things that can make us sick. When we’re tired, it struggles to fight off these ‘invaders’ as effectively as it would do if we had a good night’s sleep.

When we give our body the chance to recharge and reset, by having 8 hours sleep a night, we can boost our immunity by optimizing conditions inside our body to make it easier to fight off illness and disease.

10. It makes us less accident prone.

If we’re tired, we have less energy and mental agility. This can make us more prone to accidents and injury as a tired body and a distracted, foggy brain alters our balance and concentration.

Have you noticed the increase in signs on the road that advise you to take a break or not to drive when you’re tired?

If we don’t get enough shut eye it can slow down our reaction time and reduce our ability to focus effectively.

According to the AAA Foundation, missing 1-2 hours of sleep per night doubles your chance of having a car crash.

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11. You’ll become more focused and productive.

In 2016, the RAND Corporation found that sleep deprivation costs the US Economy $411 billion a year and over 1 million lost workdays. This was caused by people oversleeping, showing up late or just missing work altogether through illness.

When we don’t get enough sleep, we can’t concentrate and focus. We have trouble listening and retaining information. We’re simply less productive.

We often have less energy, become more of a procrastinator and our ability to be creative plummets.

When we sleep well, it takes far less effort to focus. We’re able to focus for longer without our attention wandering and getting distracted.

Having a good night’s sleep allows you to make more measured, effective decisions and helps you solve problems.

When we’re sleep deprived, we’re less motivated and become more forgetful. As well as more focus, a good night’s sleep improves reaction times, gives us better judgement, lowers risk of burnout and reduces errors.

12. It reduces your chance of getting diabetes.

Not sleeping well can increase the risk of people developing diabetes, particularly those working long hours.

When we are tired, we eat more because we need more energy. Rather than going for the healthy option, many of us reach for sugary foods that spike blood sugar levels.

Diabetes occurs when our bodies don’t produce enough insulin. A lack of sleep can lead to insulin resistance, meaning it becomes harder for our body to break down sugars.

When we’re tired, our bodies can’t break glucose down into energy. When we’re tired, insulin can’t do its job properly, then sugar levels can harm our eyes, kidneys, nerves and heart.

Prioritize your sleep

Getting a good night’s sleep is critical to our mental, physical and psychological wellbeing.

It is essential to boost our immune function, metabolism, memory, learning and other vital health functions.

Changing your habits and focusing more on getting the required 8 hours of sleep a night could simply change your life.

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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Mark Pettit

Mark Pettit is a Business Coach for ambitious entrepreneurs and business owners who want to achieve more by working less.

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How to Keep Yourself Awake at Work Without Caffeine

How to Keep Yourself Awake at Work Without Caffeine

Keeping yourself awake at work can be a real challenge when you’re bored, exhausted or sleep-deprived.

But before you reach for that can of Red Bull, bottle of Mountain Dew, or pot of coffee, try these healthy remedies to stimulate your 5 different senses and help you stay awake at work:

Sight – Visual Stimulation

The first thing you do when you wake up is opening your eyes, so your visual stimulation is very important to keeping your energy level high.

1. Maximize your exposure to light.

Your body’s internal rhythm is regulated by the amount of light you receive. The greater your exposure, the more alert you will feel.

Open the shades and let in the sunlight. Step outside or look out the window. Turn on all the artificial lights in your office or around your work space.

2. Exercise your eyes (or give them a break).

Roll your eyes up and down, side to side and diagonally. Rotate them clockwise and then counterclockwise. Squeeze them shut and then open them wide. Do this several times.

Reading and sitting in front of a computer screen for long periods can lead to eye fatigue.

Take regular breaks with deliberate blinking and looking out into the distance.

3. Take note of your environment.

Learn to enjoy people-watching. Observe their activities, speech, body language and interactions with others. Notice the details of building, trees and other objects around you, including their color, shape and size.

By doing this, you’re not only relaxing your eye muscles but also calming your mind.

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Hearing – Auditory Stimulation

What you hear or listen to have direct effect on your brain. This is why we feel so annoyed and sometimes angry when we hear construction noise when we’re working.

4. Engage in conversation.

Talk to a friend or colleague. Trade funny stories. Discuss your business venture, a creative idea, the latest political scandal, or any other topic that interests you.

Practice mindful listening to what you and the other person are saying. Tune into the tone, volume and content of the conversation.

Learn how to practice better listening from this guide:

Why Listen to Reply Instead of Understand Is the Key to Failure

5. Listen to upbeat music.

Try hip hop, rock or jazz to keep you alert. Instrumental, non-distracting music works best.

Sing, whistle, and hum along if you can. Plug in the earphones if you must.

Smell – Olfactory Stimulation

If you’re feeling sleepy and suddenly smell the coffee, you’ll probably feel more energetic. This is why smell is an influential stimulation.

6. Work your nose.

Aroma therapists recommend essential oils of peppermint (to boost energy), rosemary (to build awareness), eucalyptus (to increase oxygen), cedarwood  (to activate your mind), and cinnamon (to improve your reaction time).

If you don’t have essential oils on hand, you can use lotions or burning candles that provide the same scents.

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Citrus like lemons, limes, grapefruits and oranges are also natural olfactory stimulants. Get a whiff of these citrus scents to stay awake.

Taste – Gustatory Stimulation

If you want an energetic day at work, you can’t let your tongue feeling plain and flavorless.

7. Have a good breakfast.

Start off with the most important meal of the day.

Think fresh, light and healthy: bran cereals, wholegrain breads, fruits, and yogurt.

Nix the heavy stuff like sausages, greasy eggs or pancakes.

Need some breakfasts inspirations? Check out these ideas:

20 Healthy Breakfast Choices That Will Save You Time

8. Drink lots of water.

Keep a glass or bottle of H2O near you and sip from it throughout the day. Dehydration can leave you feeling tired, sluggish and sleepy.

So make sure you drink enough water throughout the day. Not sure how much to drink? This can help you:

How Much Water Should You Drink Each Day (and How Much Is Too Much for You)

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Think that you’ve been drinking too little water? Try these friendly reminders:

3 Best Apps To Help You Drink Much More Water

9. Eat energy-boosting snacks.

Nuts and fruits (like bananas, apples and strawberries) are sure bets. Pairings with staying power include baby carrots with a low-fat cream cheese dip; celery sticks with peanut butter; red peppers with hummus; and plain yogurt with granola.

Avoid carb-filled, sugary snacks that make you crash and leave you feeling tired.

Here you can find some healthy snack ideas:

25 Healthy Snack Recipes To Make Your Workday More Productive

Touch – Tactile Stimulation

Last but not least, your sense of touch will make you physically feel more energetic and less stressful.

10. Splash cold water on your face.

Do this in the morning, during bathroom breaks and in the afternoon. Being exposed to cold water pushes your body to adjust and regulate its internal temperature, which in turn keeps you alert.

This works the same as you take a cold shower to increase mood and alertness. Take a look at this article to learn more about it:

5 Surprising Benefits of Cold Showers

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11. Use acupressure.

Apply pressure to, massage, or tap on the stimulation points of your body. These include the top of your head, the back of your neck, the back of your hand (between the thumb and index finger), just below the knee and your earlobes.

Watch this video to learn about the acupressure points you can try:

12. Get moving.

Move away from your chair and stand, walk, run or climb the stairs. Feel the earth under your feet. Stretch and twist. Do jumping jacks, lunges, push-ups and back bends.

And if you need to move more discreetly, wiggle your feet, bounce your knee up and down, scrunch your toes, or cross your legs.

You can also try some simple stretches and exercises at your desk:

Unlike addictive caffeine fixes, these remedies activate your senses, engage your attention, amp up your energy and prevent morning grogginess and afternoon slumps without the side effects or health risks.

Pick a few ways from this list of suggestions and practice them consistently. And when you do this consistently, you’ll soon see the positive results — a more energetic and productive you at work.

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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