The Benefits of a Good Night's Sleep
The benefits of a good night's sleep are as impressive as they are numerous. By obtaining sufficient sleep on a regular basis, we can positively impact our minds, our physical performance, and our health. We can even control our body weight by getting enough sleep each night. And unlike costly health retreats or workshops, a good night's sleep does not involve the hassle of travel, special equipment or the expenditure of money.
While the ideal amount of sleep that we need varies in accordance with our health, the ideal amount of sleep for the average adult is seven to eight hours of uninterrupted sleep. Children and teenagers require more sleep, with teenagers needing nine to ten hours of sleep and school-aged children requiring ten or more hours of sleep each night. Below are some of the key benefits that we can all enjoy simply by getting sufficient uninterrupted sleep each night.
Improved Learning and Memory
By obtaining adequate sleep each night, we can help ourselves remember information faster and more accurately. People who receive ample sleep tend to perform better on learning tasks. They are also able to retrieve previously learned information more efficiently and with greater precision. People suffering from sleep deprivation, on the other hand, tend to have difficulty sustaining focus on tasks and their ability to receive new information is compromised.
A good night's sleep is a crucial part of our ability to acquire, consolidate and recall information. The acquisition and recall of information occur during our waking hours. However, the consolidation of information, or the way in which a memory establishes itself in our brains, occurs while we are asleep. Without sufficient sleep, the process of consolidation of memories is hampered and memories are not properly stored in our brains. By properly resting our minds and bodies, we awake more refreshed and ready to learn new information.
Heightened Attention and Focus
A good night's sleep can help us maintain our focus on tasks and help us resist the urge to act impulsively. Our ability to remain focused on tasks at work or school is directly impacted by the amount of sleep that we receive each night. People who obtain fewer than seven hours of sleep each night are more apt to be inattentive compared to those who are well rested. Through uninterrupted sleep, we are setting the stage for a more productive day at work or school.
It is especially beneficial for children to get enough sleep. The association between a lack of sleep and compromised attention is particularly pronounced in children. Inadequate sleep in children has been linked to hyperactivity as well as impulsive and aggressive behavior. Notably, a good night's sleep may help to eliminate hyperactive behavior and inattention in some children. A study of over 2,000 school-age children in Taiwan illustrated the positive impact that sufficient sleep can have on the reduction of inattention, impulsivity, and oppositional behaviors. By keeping these behaviors at bay through proper sleep, children can perform better in school and at home.
People who would like to lose weight should consider the positive effect that sleep has on our body weight. The failure to get a good night's sleep can have a detrimental effect on your physical condition, especially your weight. Studies have shown that people who slept fewer than five hours per night were far more likely to be obese than people who slept between seven and nine hours each night. The association between lack of sleep and obesity is particularly pronounced in children, with one study identifying sleep deprivation as the most significant contributor to childhood obesity.
The link between obesity and insufficient sleep may be influenced by hormonal factors. For instance, levels of the hormone leptin are often lower in people who do not obtain adequate amounts of sleep. This is significant because leptin decreases feelings of hunger in within the body. By obtaining sufficient sleep each night, we can help our bodies to maintain our hormonal levels and thereby help prevent weight gain.
Improved Sports Performance
One of the keys to improving our athletic pursuits is sufficient sleep. Sleep is vital to the performance of athletes in several ways. In addition to providing the body with the energy required to perform well, sleep provides the body with an opportunity to release growth hormones and repair itself following exercise and activity.
The specific effects of sleep on performance relate to speed, reaction time, and accuracy. The negative effects of sleep deprivation on athletes are similar to those produced when people have consumed enough alcohol to yield a blood alcohol level of 0.05. Conversely, studies involving swimmers and basketball players who increased their sleep each night highlight the faster reflexes and accuracy that developed in conjunction with extra sleep. Interestingly, athletes who received sufficient sleep also reported being happier than those who failed to get enough sleep each night.
Strengthened Immune System
In addition to jump starting our mental and physical performance, a good night's sleep can help our immune systems combat cold viruses, influenza, and other illnesses. People who receive ample sleep are less likely to get sick than sleep deprived people following exposure to a virus like the common cold virus. And people who habitually receive enough sleep each night are better equipped to combat obesity, heart disease and diabetes. Sufficient sleep even helps us respond more positively to vaccines, as our bodies are better prepared to build up disease fighting antibodies when well-rested.
The prevention of colds and viruses is just one way that ample sleep can help our immune systems. A good night's sleep can also help us recover faster from illnesses. While we are asleep, our bodies produce cytokines, which are proteins that are helpful in fighting infections and inflammation. Disease fighting antibodies are also produced during sleep. By giving our bodies proper rest, we are helping ourselves fight infection by aiding in the production of these vital proteins and antibodies.
One of the best ways to recover from the fast pace and pressures of everyday life is to get a good night's sleep. By obtaining sufficient rest, we are taking a vital step toward improving our mental and physical performance. We awake more refreshed and ready to face the challenges that await us on a daily basis. By making a concerted effort to give our bodies a well-deserved rest each night, people of all ages can significantly improve their quality of life.