Sleep is one of the best things for our health, and waking up after a good night’s sleep can leave us refreshed, energised and ready for the day.
However, sleep is one of the things that can often be overlooked in today’s society, even though there are a number of surprising benefits of a good night’s sleep. According to sleep expert Shawn Stevenson, millions of us are chronically sleep-deprived today. He goes on to say that sleep deprivation can lead to immune system failure, diabetes, cancer, obesity, depression, and memory loss just to name a few.
He says the best time to go to sleep is by 10pm, which is the time that melatonin kicks in for adults and you begin to feel sleepy. Melatonin is a hormone that regulates your sleep and wake cycles. It is between 10pm and 2am that you get the best quality of sleep, and your body repairs itself.
There is also an economic impact of lack of sleep. The Sleep School (thesleepschool.org), says that “poor sleep costs the economy £40 billion each year”. The Rand Report (2016) looks in detail at the economic impact of too little sleep.
Sleep has been shown to help with the conversion of short-term memories into long-term memories, and assist with our level of creativity. Health.com cites that researchers at Harvard University and Boston College found “people seem to strengthen the emotional components of memory during sleep, which may help spur the creative process.”
It also sites a Stanford University study linking 10+ hours per night of sleep with increased performance, more stamina and less daytime fatigue among college football players.
For me personally, it’s only been recently that I’ve really started to understand the surprising benefits of a good night’s sleep. Before changing my sleep habits and going to bed much earlier, I found, most of the time, I would feel lethargic during the day, was constantly exhausted, and had limited focus.
Going to bed before midnight and having between seven and nine hours sleep on average means I now have more energy during the day, better focus and I’m more productive than before.
Lack of sleep can have a serious effect on our cognitive functions, mood and over time can contribute to chronic conditions from CFS (chronic fatigue syndrome) to cancer. Research suggests the optimum amount of sleep we need per night is 7-10 hours.
So try this for the next seven days:
1. Go to bed before midnight and get a minimum of 7-8 hours of sleep. If you have trouble sleeping at least take the opportunity to rest your body as much as you can in bed.
2. Keep a note over the week of how you feel, how you function during the day and how you interact with those around you
3. At the end of the week reflect on what you need to do to improve your pattern of sleep