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Last Updated on December 18, 2020

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

More by this author

Mark Pettit

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

How to Help Anxiety When Life Is Stressing You Out The Importance of Sleep Cycles on Productivity (+ Tips to Improve Yours) A Lack of Sleep May Slowly Kill You: Benefits of Sleep You Need to Know Why You Suffer from Constant Fatigue and How to Deal with It 13 Work Life Balance Tips for a Happy and Productive Life

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Last Updated on January 18, 2021

13 Best Energy Boosting Foods to Help You Stay Sharp All Day

13 Best Energy Boosting Foods to Help You Stay Sharp All Day

Do you find you need a “pick-me-up” in the middle of the day? Or maybe your energy wanes just before it’s time to leave work? In these instances, energy foods can be a great solution.

Many of us feel fatigued at a certain point during the day – maybe you didn’t go to bed early enough, or maybe you’re a new parent and just not getting enough sleep through the night. You could be having trouble sleeping and possibly need to look at your sleeping habits.

What if there were some foods that could help increase your energy and are actually healthy for you?

Before we get into the actual energy-boosting foods that can help, let’s talk briefly about how to eat for optimal energy. People that stay energetic throughout the day do a few key things:

  • To maintain blood sugar levels and energy evenly throughout the day, it’s best to snack every 2-3 hours
  • Having a balanced mix of the macro-nutrients—protein, fats, and carbohydrates—helps to ensure a slow, steady release of energy throughout the day
  • Including a wide variety of fruits and vegetables helps to ensure we get required vitamins and nutrients

In addition to eating healthy, balanced meals and snacks spaced throughout the day, there are many foods that can help give a more immediate boost. Although we often crave junk foods when we’re tired, these will do a much better job of boosting stamina without the terrible sugar crash soon after. Let’s take a look at the best energy foods:

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1. Caffeine

Coffee (and some teas) not only promotes central nervous system stimulation and boosts brain function, but it is also a great source of antioxidants and may possibly promote a decreased risk of type 2 diabetes and liver disease[1].

Caffeine is said to affect some neurotransmitters that could improve mood, reaction time, learning and vigilance, making it a great energy-boosting food for our list.

2. Mint Leaves

The Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition says peppermint is thought to increase ventilation and brain oxygen concentration, which can lead to an increase in energy. That makes this an excellent energy food. Add some mint leaves to hot water for a drink that will get you through the afternoon.[2]

3. Ginger

Ginger is said to reduce fatigue by improving blood circulation and blood sugar levels. This deliciously fragrant food may also offer help to migraine sufferers – comparable even to the drug sumatriptan and with less side effects.[3]

4. Quinoa

Discovered by the Incas and thought to increase the stamina of their warriors, this grain has been touted as the super grain of the future, and one of the best energy-boosting foods for long-term health.

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Quinoa is the most protein-rich grain available, as well as a complete protein containing all 9 essential amino acids needed by the body. Quinoa contains iron, among other things that can help boost brain function as the brain takes in about 20% of our blood oxygen. It also contains Riboflavin (Vitamin b2) which improves energy metabolism within the brain, helping create proper energy production in cells.

5. Dark Chocolate

Dark chocolate contains caffeine and theobromine, which both help to boost energy levels – the darker the chocolate, the less sugar and more energy boosting potential it has. The next time you’re feeling a little lethargic, take a little chocolate break with this energy food.

6. Yogurt

Yogurt has a high amount of protein, which can help you feel full for longer, so hunger will not distract you from your daily tasks. The fat content in Greek yogurt also tends to be more satisfying. Add in some fresh fruit for an antioxidant boost as well!

7. Berries

Berries are full of antioxidants and vitamins. Specifically, Goji berries are known to have high concentrations of melatonin, which can improve sleep and give you more energy during the day.

Berries are also said to stave off cardiovascular disease and some cancers. The healthy natural sugar in these sweet treats help offer a quick boost in your day, making them some of the best energy-boosting foods.

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8. Lentils

Lentils are excellent at stabilizing blood sugar and, therefore, offer you a slow burning source of energy to keep you feeling full throughout the day. They also help increase your iron stores, which can help boost energy[4].

9. Walnuts

These nuts contain healthy fats, fiber, and protein, which prevents energy crashes and keeps your energy more level throughout the day. A handful of walnuts as a mid-day snack is a great idea if you’re looking to add energy foods to your routine.

10. Cherries

Cherries are also good sources of melatonin, which can help you to get a better night’s sleep to keep you fresh through the day.[5] They have also been shown to reduce inflammation, which can cause fatigue in the long-term. 

11. Dried Fruits

Dried fruits are an excellent source of quick, usable energy that provide many essential nutrients, including Vitamin A, B-6, C, and D. If you’re looking for energy-boosting foods, a small bag of dried fruit can give you the push you need to finish all of your projects.

12. Salmon

Salmon contains Omega-3 fatty acids, which are said to improve brain function and reduce fatigue while also providing vitamin B and protein, which can help sustain energy throughout the day. Omega-3’s are also great at reducing inflammation in the body, which helps reduce sleepiness.

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13. Green Tea

This type of tea contains some caffeine, which we know boosts energy. This warm gem has also been associated with a reduction in breast cancer risk[6].

Learn more about the benefits of green tea here.

The Bottom Line

So many of the foods we eat can help boost our energy. Whether they include complex carbohydrates for readily available energy, or packed with fiber and protein for a slower energy release, they can help increase power and stamina.

As a bonus, a lot of these foods also contain significant amounts of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, which have been shown to play a role in the production of energy within your cells.

Incorporating these energy-boosting foods into a varied diet will definitely help increase energy levels throughout the day and help to stave off that mid-to-late-day slump.

More Tips on Increasing Energy

Featured photo credit: THE 5TH via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Harvard Health Publishing: The latest scoop on the health benefits of coffee
[2] Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition: The effects of peppermint on exercise performance
[3] Phytotherapy Research: Comparison between the efficacy of ginger and sumatriptan in the ablative treatment of the common migraine.
[4] Harvard T.H. Chan: Lentils
[5] Medical Daily: Cherry Health Benefits
[6] World Journal of Clinical Oncology: Green tea compounds in breast cancer prevention and treatment

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