Sleep is essential for a person’s health and wellbeing, according to the National Sleep Foundation (NSF). Yet millions of people do not get enough sleep and many suffer from lack of sleep. For example, surveys conducted by the NSF reveal that at least 40 million Americans suffer from over 70 different sleep disorders, and 60% of adults report having sleep problems a few nights a week. Most of those with these problems go undiagnosed and untreated. In addition, more than 40% of adults experience daytime sleepiness severe enough to interfere with their daily activities at least a few days each month, with 20% reporting problem sleepiness a few days a week. This does not only affect adults: 69% of children experience sleep problems one or more nights per week.
There are important reasons to get more sleep. So if you find yourself getting less than the recommended seven or eight hours per night, here are some good reasons to turn off your computer, shut off the lights and go to bed an hour earlier.
Getting a good night’s sleep won’t grant you immunity from disease. But study after study has found a link between insufficient sleep and some serious health problems, such as heart disease, heart attacks, diabetes, and obesity.
According to a poll conducted by the National Sleep Foundation, up to 26% of people say that their sex lives tend to suffer because they’re just too tired. There’s evidence that in men, impaired sleep can be associated with lower testosterone levels,although the exact nature of the link isn’t clear. Of course, not getting enough sleep can affect your love life in less direct ways too. If you’re a 28-year-old who’s so exhausted you’re falling asleep during a date at the movies, that’s not good. Your evening will probably end early.
If you have chronic pain — or acute pain from a recent injury — getting enough sleep may actually make you hurt less. Many studies have shown a link between sleep loss and lower pain threshold. Unfortunately, being in pain can make it hard to sleep. Getting good sleep can supplement medication for pain. If pain is keeping you up at night, there are also medications available that combine a pain reliever with a sleep aid.
Sleeping enough might actually keep you safer. Sleep deprivation has been linked with many notorious disasters, like the destruction of the space shuttle Challenger and the grounding of the Exxon Valdez. It is estimated that one out of five auto accidents in the U.S. results from drowsy driving — that’s about 1 million crashes a year. Being overly drousy has also been compared to being intoxicated, which can inhibit your ability to do many tasks well.
Getting enough sleep won’t guarantee a sunny disposition. But you have probably noticed that when you’re exhausted, you’re more likely to be cranky. That’s not all. Not getting enough sleep affects your emotional regulation. When you’re overtired, you’re more likely to snap at your boss, or burst into tears, or start laughing uncontrollably.
Getting enough sleep could help you maintain your weight and conversely, sleep loss goes along with an increased risk of weight gain. Why? Part of the problem is behavioral. If you’re overtired, you might be less likely to have the energy to go for that jog or cook a healthy dinner after work. The other part is physiological. The hormone leptin plays a key role in making you feel full. When you don’t get enough sleep, leptin levels drop. The result is people who are tired are just plain hungrier and they seem to crave high-fat and high-calorie foods specifically.
Have you ever woken up after a bad night’s sleep, feeling fuzzy and easily confused, like your brain can’t get out of first gear?
Sleep loss affects how you think. It impairs your cognition, your attention, and your decision-making. Studies have found that people who are sleep-deprived are substantially worse at solving logic or math problems than when they’re well-rested. They’re also more likely to make odd mistakes, like leaving their keys in the fridge by accident.
Feeling forgetful? Sleep loss could be to blame. Studies have shown that while we sleep, our brains process and consolidate our memories from the day. If you don’t get enough sleep, it seems like those memories might not get stored correctly, and can be lost.
We know it is important to get enough sleep each night. Often if we work at changing some of our habits, we can achieve better sleep habits and wake up well rested each morning. Some of the habits we may wantto change is going to be at a regular time each night, and maybe earlier than we usually do. Avoiding large meals before bed. Monitoring how much caffeine we take in during the day. Making these simple changes can give us a great benefit.