How much do YOU sleep each night? Do you think it’s enough?
According to a study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (The CDC), more than a third of Americans sleep less than the necessary 7 hours per night.
It could just be all in my head, but I am 99% sure that when I haven’t slept well I’m not at my best. I guess that’s common sense, but there are actually worse things that can happen if we regularly miss out on vital hours of sleep.
Lack of sleep increases the risk of you suffering from obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke.
There’s something in this list that caught me off-gaurd. Did you notice it?
Wait, can a lack of sleep make you fat?
My initial thought was that the less time you spend awake the less time you have to eat. Maybe that’s part of it, but actually it’s got more to do with how chronic tiredness affects our ability to make everyday decisions well.
Let’s say that you, like me, only slept 4 hours last night. To compensate you get a large coffee and a sugar-filled juice, skip exercise because duh, you’re too tired, and then order takeout when you get home from work because, duh, you’re tired.
Actual tiredness aside, not getting enough sleep also affects your brain’s ability to make decisions. It reduces your clarity in almost the same way alcohol does, and triggers your brain’s reward center, making you more inclined to eat that extra piece of cake, or eat way more than you need to.
Not concerned about gaining weight? Here are 4 other reasons why you need to make sure you get enough sleep:
1. BOOST YOUR PHYSICAL PERFORMANCE
Stanford Sleep Disorders Clinic and Research Laboratory investigated the effects of increasing the sleep duration of eleven students on the Stanford University Basketball Team, with pretty cool results. After a few weeks of sleeping a minimum of 10 hours a night (not a reality for most of us, I know), the players ran faster sprints, their shooting accuracy was better, and they claimed to experience better physical and mental well-being during practices. In short, if you want to run or train better, start with getting enough sleep.
2. REDUCE STRESS
It feels like a paradox that if we’re stressed because of the number of things on our minds, we should sleep more. At least for me it definitely feels like I’d want to sleep less so that I have more time to deal with the stuff stressing me out. Not the case apparently. Turns out it’s a pretty vicious cycle. The more stressed you are the worse you sleep, and the less you sleep the more stressed you are. Yay. So what do you need to do? Aim for at least 7 hours of sleep a night. Whilst it won’t actually remove the issues that are causing your stress, it will make you less susceptible to being stressed. You’ll be less irritable and short-tempered, and find it easier to deal with all the things life throws at you.
3. IMPROVE YOUR MEMORY
Are you often forgetful? Do you sleep enough? You might not think the two correlate, but that’s where you’d be wrong. They are very related. Sleep is what helps our brain to store and strengthen memories, as it’s when connections between brain cells are reinforced. Try sleeping more to see if it helps your memory.
4. PROTECT YOUR HEART
Bet you didn’t see that one coming. You heart is significantly affected by how you sleep. One study looked at data from 3000 adults over the age of 45 and noted that those who slept less than 6 hours a night were twice as likely to suffer from a stroke or heart attack than those who slept 6+ hours per night.
Still not convinced that sleep is important for your health and overall well-being?
Check out this infographic on sleep from Cassie Brewer:
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