According to the US Center for Disease Control, insufficient sleep is a public health epidemic! Yikes! If you’re like me, you don’t give much thought to it (except when the 5am wake-up call comes!). Most of the time, I consider it nothing more than an on-off switch - like the ones on our smart phones - that the body flips when it needs to take a break from our over-scheduled lives. Sure, we'd like to get a bit more sleep, but it likely falls somewhere near flossing on life’s “to-do” list: it’s something we’re supposed to do more of - but don't.
Here are 5 reasons to help you get started on a good pattern of sleep!
1. Sleep is the wonder drug
People who don’t get sufficient sleep are more likely to suffer from all kinds of scary diseases: hypertension, diabetes, depression, and obesity, as well as cancer! Sleeping works better than any medicine or home remedy - it is a cure-all. Whether you’re recovering from activities, an illness, or perhaps a very stressful day on the job - in all cases, sleep is the answer. Not to mention, there is no safer or better feeling than being in between a comfortable mattress and a warm blanket! Here’s a side tip: it’s easier to get a good night sleep if you layoff the caffeine. We live in a nation where 20% of us drink 5 or more caffeine drinks a day...yes, a day! I recently spent 21 days without any caffeine and I slept better than I have in years - felt better, worked smarter and no longer had headaches.
2. Sleep is the fountain of youth
Too little sleep is associated with a shorter lifespan. In a 2010 study of women ages 50 to 79, more deaths occurred in women who got less than 5 hours. But don’t oversleep - more deaths also occurred in women who got more than 6.5 hours of sleep per night. In addition, sleep gives your cells time to rejuvenate giving us younger looking skin. So before you spend $50 on that facial cream, remember that sleep is a lot cheaper!
3. Sleep spurs creativity
Get a good night’s sleep before you take out the easel and paintbrushes or the pen and paper. In addition to helping your memory, sleep appears to allow your brain to reorganize and restructure memories, too. The result? More creativity! Researchers at Harvard University and Boston College found that people seem to strengthen the emotional components of a memory during sleep, which helps spur the creative process. Now, go get some rest and write the next great American novel!
4. Sleep makes you smarter
Sleepless nights may have alarming neurological affects, according to a study recently published in the journal Biological Psychiatry. Dutch researchers found that chronically sleepless subjects tended to have less gray matter than those who sleep more soundly. Gray matter is a type of tissue found in the brain and spinal cord (it was given this name due to it’s brownish-gray color). Many people associate gray matter with intelligence, because it is a major component in the brain. Get some sleep because no one wants a shrinking brain! A shrinking waistline, on the other hand….
5. Sleep makes you skinnier
My nutritionist recently told me, “If you’re short on time, it’s more beneficial to get an hour of sleep than spending that extra hour in the gym.” Could this be true? Researchers at the University of Chicago found that well-rested dieters lost 56% more fat than those who were sleep deprived (who lost more muscle mass). Dieters in the study also felt hungrier when they got less sleep. It turns out that sleep and metabolism are controlled by the same sectors of the brain – when you’re sleepy, you’re also hungrier.
So, its official: You need 7 hours of sleep. Sleep researchers have long argued over the optimal duration of sleep for healthy adults, with most balancing somewhere between five and eight. West Virginia University claims to have come up with the "magic number": seven hours. A study of 30,000 adults found that the risk of cardiovascular disease was significantly lower among those who claimed to regularly sleep seven hours a night.