Inside: We often think of sleep as just rest but there are benefits of a fabulous night sleep. Slumber is actually a mentally active period where a lot of processing, restoration and strengthening occurs.
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What is the Purpose of Sleep?
“People say, ‘I’m going to sleep now,’ as if it were nothing. But it’s really a bizarre activity. ‘For the next several hours, while the sun is gone, I’m going to become unconscious, temporarily losing command over everything I know and understand. When the sun returns, I will resume my life.’
If you didn’t know what sleep was, and you had only seen it in a science fiction movie, you would think it was weird and tell all your friends about the movie you’d seen.
They had these people, you know? And they would walk around all day and be OK? And then, once a day, usually after dark, they would lie down on these special platforms and become unconscious. They would stop functioning almost completely, except deep in their minds they would have adventures and experiences that were completely impossible in real life. As they lay there, completely vulnerable to their enemies, their only movements were to occasionally shift from one position to another; or, if one of the ‘mind adventures’ got too real, they would sit up and scream and be glad they weren’t unconscious anymore. Then they would drink a lot of coffee.’
So, next time you see someone sleeping, make believe you’re in a science fiction movie. And whisper, ‘The creature is regenerating itself.”
― George Carlin,
I think old George had it right. Sleep is kind of bizarre if you think about it. We spend 7 or 8 hours of every day unconscious. The A-type personality will think of those hours as a complete waste of potentially productive time. So, what are the benefits of a fabulous night sleep? Why do animals, including ourselves, seem to need so much of it?
We all think of sleep as a time of rest. Our bodies pause from an active day. In actual fact, sleep is an extremely active period – for our brains anyway.
A lot of processing, restoration and strengthening occurs during 6 to 8 hours of nightly sleep. Click To Tweet And it’s not just your brain that is working. Your body too uses the time to regenerate itself.
The following are 10 Valuable Benefits of a Fabulous Night Sleep.
1. A Fabulous Night Sleep helps us solidify and consolidate memories.
During daytime hours our minds take in an incredible amount of information. As young children, we acquire social, language and motor skills at crazy speeds. The amount of sleep required depends upon age.
Newborns need 14 to 17 hours of sleep to assimilate the dizzying amounts of information they take in daily. Infants and toddlers require slightly less while school-age kids still need 9 to 11 hours of sleep. Adults from 18 years and above require about 7 to 9 hours of sleep to function optimally.
At night when you sleep, all that information accumulated while you’re awake gets processed and transferred from short-term to long-term memory.
So all you college kids who cram the night before and stay up all night, forget about that. None of that hard work will be drilled into your long-term memory unless you get your 7 hours of sleep time.
2. During sleep, we repair our bodies.
Do you work out during the day? Have you injured yourself or had recent surgery? There is a reason why sleep is so important when we are injured, sick or pushing our bodies in the weight room. Those 7 or 8 hours of slumber are essential to grow muscle, repair tissue and synthesize hormones.
Cheat yourself of sleep and you’ll take longer to get well or bulk up from all that time at the gym!
3. A good night’s slumber helps you feel good.
Enough said here!
4. Adequate sleep improves brain function.
Most of us have woken from a horrible night’s sleep and felt that all too familiar brain fog. If you’re a student, concentrating on a lecture is next to impossible. A day at the office can seem like forever as you struggle to get reports done and slog through your workload.
A good 7 or 8 hours of sleep dramatically improves concentration, problem-solving skills, memory and mood. Sleep deprivation makes you less alert, much less productive and leads overall to poor performance.
5. Good news, sleeping burns calories!
It makes good sense that the longer you are awake, the more time you have to eat. Thus, less sleep means its more likely you’re taking in more calories and not necessarily wearing them off.
A 16 year Harvard Medical school study also showed that even when women who slept longer ate more, they still gained less weight. A lot of work goes on while sleeping apparently. And furthermore, when you sleep better your stress levels are down and you produce less cortisol. Cortisol production is definitely linked to weight gain. So, proper sleep as part of stress management is a great way to help keep off those extra pounds.
6. A good night’s rest makes you a better employee.
Sara Mednick, a research scientist at the University of California at San Diego, found an interesting correlation between power naps and job productivity. She found that one nap of up to 90 minutes between 1pm and 4pm contributes to your sleep quota for the day. This power nap not only boosts your productivity in school or on the job but also will not affect falling asleep at night.
Mexican siesta anyone?
7. Good sleepers have a stronger immune system.
Seeing that your mind is busy processing new information and your body is busy repairing daily damage during sleep, it is not surprising that good sleepers have a stronger immune system. You ever notice when you’re ill, all you want to do is sleep? Our bodies are good at signalling to us what we need to get better.
A University of Chicago study showed a correlation between adequate sleep and antibodies produced after receiving a flu shot. Those who slept well produced significantly more antibodies after their flu shot compared to those with poor sleep habits.
Another University of Chicago study showed that lack of sleep increased levels of fatty acids in the blood correlating with a period of insulin resistance. Insulin resistance is a precursor to diabetes so lack of sleep increases your risk of Type 2 diabetes. Elevated fatty acid levels can also be related to increased risk of heart disease.
8. Good sleepers are better looking.
Look in the mirror the next time you have a really bad night of sleep. Your reflection is likely not a pretty one. Growth hormone is secreted during the deepest, most restorative part of sleep. According to Rachel Morehouse, director of the Atlantic Health Sciences Sleep Centre in St. John NB, higher levels of growth hormone are linked to better muscle mass and better skin.
There is a reason most of us need our beauty sleep!
9. Sleeping well improves your mood.
Insomnia leads to higher production of stress hormones. Greater levels of stress hormones in our bodies leads to irritability and depression which again trigger more insomnia. It is a viscous circle. Getting your 7 to 8 hours of shut eye per night is vitally important for a happy you.
10. Sleep keeps you slimmer by reducing food cravings.
Not only does a good night’s sleep burn calories, it also reduces those pesky food cravings. Who hasn’t had the desire for a late night snack while watching TV way past your bedtime?
Lack of sleep influences your food choices. A sleepy person has less will power to turn down that tempting junk food. And because sleep loss also results in a decrease in insulin sensitivity, you know that all the calories from that junk food is going to show up on your waist line. Sleep is vital to our health and well-being. To feed your curiosity about the 5 stages of sleep and reinforce those 10 benefits I’ve explained above check out this article by Health Ambition. It is another great read!
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