Sleep is probably one of the most underrated factors that can be used to improve our health. Despite being extremely important, it rarely gets the attention it deserves.
Just how Leonardo DiCaprio never wins an Oscar.
Not paying attention to your sleep can lead to a reduction in both productivity and health. Paying attention to it is the easiest way to improve your lifestyle.
Here are five reasons sleep can improve your lifestyle:
1. Improved cognitive performance and memory.
Most people burn the midnight oil whenever they are studying for an exam or have to cram a whole lot of information into their brains.
What if I told you that your late night attempt to learn is counterproductive and you are probably better off sleeping? There are a couple ways sleep will enhance your cognitive performance and memory.
Ensuring you are well-rested will help keep mental fatigue at bay. How else would you be able to focus and learn what’s important if mental fatigue is causing an inability to focus?
The second way is related to how our brain functions. Short term memory is stored in a part of the brain called the neocortex, while long term memory is stored in the hippocampus (Peigneux P. et al 2004).
During sleep, information from the neocortex gets transferred into the hippocampus, creating a much more permanent storage. Hence, a well-rested brain will ensure proper mental function and an improved memory.
It’s interesting to note that sleeping well will help us pick up new skills faster. Study subjects that had sleep deprivation had no problem performing and learning simple skills; however, as difficulty increased, the subjects who were sleep-deprived found it tougher to pick up a new skill (Landry S. et al 2014).
Another study titled “The Relationship between Tennis Skill Acquisitions with Sleep Quality and Quality of Life” was performed on tennis players, showed that players who slept well were faster and more accurate than those who didn’t (Seferogu F. et al 2013).
The takeaway is that sleep is highly important when it comes to learning something new, especially if what you’re going to learn is not that simple.
3. Lack of sleep can lead to weight gain.
Lack of sleep can not only disrupt mental performance but it can also hamper physical performance. Lab studies have shown that an increase in sleep deprivation showed an increased risk of obesity and diabetes (Walsh N. et al 2011).
A study called “Insufficient sleep undermines dietary efforts to reduce adiposity” demonstrated two groups of subject were put on a weight loss diet, the group which had sleep deprivation lost more weight from muscle instead of fat (Nedeltcheva AV et al 2010).
The reason behind this could be potentially caused by changes in insulin resistance and glucose regulation. This means our body cannot process sugar as efficiently, which can lead to potential fat gain.
The longer you’re awake, the higher the chance for you to eat something. And, most of the time, it isn’t going to be something “healthy”.
4. Lack of sleep can lead to decreased immune function.
When we sleep, our body produces a hormone called melatonin. This is a vital hormone that helps regulate our immune system. A lack of melatonin can lead to someone falling sick easily due to a weaken immune system. This is probably why you might see people who have not slept for a few nights are also those that are more prone to falling sick as well.
There are also studies demonstrating that a lack of sleep can also increase the risk of cancer, heart disease and an increase in cholesterol levels (Marshall NS et al 2012).
So if you want to take care of your health, you better be monitoring your sleep.
5. Lack of sleep can reduce sex drive
Our sex drive is regulated by a hormone called testosterone. This applies to both males and females. A reduction of 10-30% of testosterone can be seen in populations that are sleep deprived, not to mention that this reduction can be further magnified if sleep deprivation continues (Leproult R. et al 2011).
This shows that if you lack sleep, a reduction in testosterone will lead to a reduction of your sex drive.
So, to be good in bed, you actually need to spend more time in bed—sleeping.
1. Peigneux P. et al 2004 Are Spatial Memories Strengthened in the Human Hippocampus during Slow Wave Sleep?
2. Landry S. et al 2014 The impact of obstructive sleep apnea on motor skill acquisition and consolidation.
3. Seferogu F. et al 2013 The Relationship between Tennis Skill Acquisitions with Sleep Quality and Quality of Life
4. Walsh N et al 2011 Position statement. Part one: Immune function and exercise.
5. Nedeltcheva AV et al 2010 Insufficient sleep undermines dietary efforts to reduce adiposity.
6. Marshall NS et al 2012 Sleep Apnea as an Independent Risk Factor for All-Cause Mortality: The Busselton Health Study
7. Leproult R, Van Cauter E. 2011 Effect of 1 week of sleep restriction on testosterone levels in young healthy men.
Featured photo credit: Sleeping Man/Rudolf Vlček via flickr.com