Ever spend the day feeling wiped out because you didn’t sleep well? Ever spend a week that way. Well, you’re not alone in your suffering.
Nearly 40% of adults struggle with sleep at least five nights a week. Around 90% struggle with it at least one night per week.
Most people find workarounds, like slugging back espressos or energy drinks. Yet, that dragging feeling should make you wonder why sleep is important?
It turns out that getting enough sleep doesn’t just help you stay awake. It serves a number of important functions in your overall health and well-being. Keep reading for eight reasons why sleep is so important.
1. Weight Management
The exact relationship between sleep and weight management remains a little murky. Yet, people who clock fewer hours of sleep show a tendency toward obesity.
One potential cause stems from appetite. Those who sleep less often crave food more often and want more food. The lack of sleep may affect the hormonal balance in the body that controls things like hunger.
The obvious tiredness that stems from insufficient sleep may also impact your overall motivation. Deciding that you’ll exercise when you feel energetic remains easy for many people. When tired, however, finding the motivation for exercise can often prove a more difficult thing.
After all, consider how hard fairly easy choices become when you’re tired. Ever find yourself agonizing over what to make for dinner after a long day?
The physical demands of exercise only amplify the difficulty of the decision. When all you want is sleep, exercise sounds like pure misery.
Getting enough sleep also makes you more productive in your day. When you’re well-rested, you can focus on the work at hand. When you’re tired, you must often force yourself into working and keep forcing your attention back onto the work.
This isn’t a lack of caffeine in your system, although it might feel that way. Even moderate amounts of sleep deprivation reduce your mental performance.
In fact, it can prove as bad as if you had a drink while sitting at your desk. It might help you relax, sure, but it would prove a poor enhancer for your work quality.
Even worse, it also makes you less accurate at whatever tasks you work on. Ever write an email when tired only to spot a bunch of typos in it when you see it again later.
While a few typos in an email may not matter that much, small errors can swell into huge problems if you work with numbers. Let’s say you misplace a decimal point in your bookkeeping. You might spend months trying to track down that mistake.
3. Emotional Well-Being
Why is it important to get enough sleep? Your emotional well-being.
Not logging enough sleep doesn’t just make you feel mentally sluggish. It actually makes you less empathetic. You can find it difficult to identify or care about others’ emotions.
Too little sleep can also damage your emotional control. For example, do you ever snap at your spouse or kids over minor things when you’re tired? Or maybe your coworkers gripe that you’re a bear to work with when you’re tired.
They aren’t gaslighting you. You probably lash out at them in minor ways or treat them poorly because you’re normal emotional leash is a lot looser than usual.
This can also create a level of social isolation for the chronically tired. If you’re rough on the people around you, they may start avoiding you. That can reduce your well-being as well since socializing improves emotional well-being.
One of the more severe psychological risks of poor sleep is depression. In fact, poor sleep is one of the big risk factors for depression.
Depression is something separate from emotional well-being. Emotional well-being can wax or wane depending on a lot of external and internal factors. A good performance review, a weekend away with your family, or even a sunny day can enhance your well-being.
Depression is a clinical condition that remains largely immune to external factors. People with depression get promoted, have kids, and go on vacation. Despite these good things, they’re still depressed after the fact.
If you suspect you may suffer from depression, you should speak with a mental health professional.
5. Immune System Health
It turns out that your immune system is very sensitive to your sleeping habits. Even a minor amount of lost sleep can make you much more likely to pick up common illnesses, like colds.
For the young and relatively healthy adult, this might seem like an inconvenience. Yet, it can also become a problem for those around you. You might shake off the flu in a few days, but your kids or elderly parents may not.
Chronic lost sleep, however, can leave you very vulnerable to all kinds of illnesses. While social distancing measures might help protect you in the near-term, you’ll almost certainly pick something up just being in the world. You might even find yourself getting ill from food-borne illnesses you might otherwise not even notice.
6. Heart Health
In terms of physical health, getting enough sleep is a very big deal for your heart. Poor sleep has a strong link to heart disease. You may also find yourself at greater risk for a stroke.
This risk may also connect with other problems associated with poor sleep. Poor emotional control can make you more susceptible to stress, which taxes the heart.
Poor diet or poor portion control can leave you overweight or drive up your cholesterol. Again, things that put a strain on the heart and cardiovascular system.
Regular cardio exercises help keep the heart-healthy, but poor sleep discourages regular exercise.
All in all, the heart may well benefit from good sleep because good sleep helps drive a healthier overall lifestyle.
Good sleep habits can help prevent diabetes. Regular sleep seemingly helps the body regulate blood glucose levels. This, in turn, helps the body avoid a prediabetic condition.
Poor sleep, in contrast, damages how well the body controls blood sugar. In fact, a mere week of restricted sleep can make a person more prone to prediabetic symptoms.
The big takeaway here is that good sleep habits help you take a pass on Type 2 diabetes. Bad sleep habits can help make insulin shots a regular part of your daily life.
Given the choice, most people prefer not giving them injections on a daily basis.
8. Better Athletic Performance
While athletics isn’t a priority for every adult, some thrive on athletics of one kind or another. For one, mountain biking may make their weekend. Others might go in for spin classes, basketball with their friends, or power yoga.
If you fall into these high-performance groups, then you must give some attention to your sleep. Getting the recommended 7-8 hours will actually improve your performance without any other changes.
The extra sleep helps the body recover from previous workouts and rebuild muscle. It also gives your cells time to recover their energy stores. Put all of that together and you get better performance at the gym or on the court.
Improving Your Sleep
If you want to improve your sleep for your physical and mental well-being, there are many options available for you. Sticking with a schedule for your bedtime helps a lot. While adult life can interfere, make it a goal.
Getting in some regular cardio exercise can also help. Hopping on a treadmill for a mile or two or even taking a walk outside can help you drop off later at night.
You can also consider replacing your mattress. An old, uncomfortable mattress can make sleep problems even worse.
Skip the late-night coffee and your nightcap. Caffeine and alcohol will interfere with your sleep quality.
You can, however, consider some other types of supplements, such as melatonin or a sleep gummy product. These supplements often help people drop off to sleep or stay asleep without damaging sleep quality.
Why Sleep Is Important…It Makes Your Life Better
There are many reasons why sleep is important. Possibly the most important reason is that it makes your life better if you get enough of it.
Chronic lack of good sleep damages your health, impairs your brain, and leaves you open for conditions like depression. Sufficient sleep helps you remain productive, healthy, and emotionally balanced.
Fortunately, you can take a lot of steps that will let you get enough quality sleep. Start with simpler things, like setting a firm bedtime and getting in a little cardio. If those don’t get you all the way there, try some of the other options.
Looking for more health info and tips? Check out some of our health-related articles in the Lifestyle section.