More than ever before, people are recognizing the benefits of sleep. At the same time, there’s also a growing understanding of the negative impacts of sleep deprivation. The world is finally waking up to the fact that when it comes to physical fitness, sleep is equally as important as physical exercise and a good diet.
However, according to the National Safety Council, more than 70 million Americans suffer from a sleep disorder and about 35% of adult sleep less than 7 hours a night. There is a frightening list of things that can happen when you don’t get the sleep you need. From short-term avoidable accidents to long-term disease risk and early death, it’s enough to send us racing to our bedrooms.
With all the reasons that sleep is important to a healthy lifestyle, it makes sense to plan around sleep the same way that you would make plans for physical exercise and diet. In this blog, we’ll take a look at the top 8 reasons why sleep is the new fitness.
SLEEP HELPS YOU LIVE HEALTHIER AND LONGER
If you want to live longer, sleep can be your best defence against a slew of diseases.
There is some evidence of a link between insufficient sleep and the risk of cancer. People with circadian rhythm disorders—in which the body’s biological clock is disrupted because of shift work, for example—may be at increased risk of developing breast or colon cancer. A study in the International Journal of Cancer found a relationship between women’s irregular work schedules and the rate of breast cancer. They found that the rate of breast cancer was 30 percent higher for the women who had worked shifts.
And if that’s not enough to convince you, sleep deprivation is an often associated with type 2 diabetes, the worsening of blood pressure and higher levels of cholesterol, all of which are risk factors for heart disease and stroke.
SLEEP HELPS YOU MAINTAIN A HEALTHY WEIGHT
The proper amount of sleep helps optimize your body’s metabolism and helps you make better dietary choices.
Numerous studies have uncovered the dangers of sleep deprivation on diet. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that when people were starved of sleep, late-night snacking increased, and they were more likely to choose calorie rich, high-carb snacks. Another study found that sleeping too little prompts people to eat bigger portions of all foods.
On top of this, a shortage of sleep affects your metabolism by altering your body’s ability to process insulin (the hormone needed to change sugar, starches, and other food into energy). When your body doesn’t respond properly to insulin, your body has trouble processing fats from your bloodstream, so it ends up storing them as fat.
SLEEP HELPS REDUCE AND MANAGE STRESS BETTER
Those who get more sleep, can manage stress better and live a calmer life.
When your body is sleep deficient, it goes into a state of stress. The body’s functions are put on high alert, which causes high blood pressure and the production of stress hormones. High blood pressure increases your risk for heart attack and stroke, and the stress hormones make it harder to fall asleep.
If you’re averaging four to five hours of sleep a night, your brain reacts to stress as if you’ve gone for three consecutive nights without any sleep. In order to effectively manage stress, sleep hygiene should always be a concern.
SLEEP HELPS REDUCE INFLAMMATION & IMPROVES RECOVERY
Sleep helps repair muscle tissue and reduce inflammation.
Heart disease, stroke, diabetes, arthritis and premature aging all have strong ties to inflammation. If you sleep less than six hours a night, your blood levels of inflammatory proteins may be higher than people who sleep more.
Additionally, studies have found that your body recovers faster and stronger from a workout with a good night’s sleep. Its for these reasons that many athletic programs have taken notice and made fatigue management part of their training.
SLEEP IMPROVES YOUR MEMORY AND MIGHT ACTUALLY MAKE YOU SMARTER
Many studies have demonstrated the link between sleeping and memory. Just as sleep repairs muscle tissue, it also cleans out the synapses in your brain. Sleep facilitates the processing of memories, moving the important memories to long-term storage and discarding those you won’t need tomorrow. Without sleep, your memories all stay in the short-term retrieval area and learning complex skills becomes nearly impossible.
The role of sleep in learning may be even more significant than just the maintenance of short-term retrieval areas of the brain. A study of high school students’ ability to memorize vocabulary showed that sleeping within a few hours of learning aided recall, regardless of the time of day. The next time that you need to memorize important information, you should consider planning sleep as part of the process.
SLEEP MAKES YOU LESS ACCIDENT PRONE
More sleep will make you more alert.
In 2009, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported that sleepy drivers are responsible for the most single car crashes. That’s an even higher crash rate than alcohol. What’s also alarming is that at certain fatigue levels, you might be driving as if you were impaired by alcohol.
While the vehicle statistics are alarming for the transport industry, the implications of fatigue in the workplace are wide reaching. An older study published in the journal of sleep research even concluded that fatigue-related accidents can have impacts throughout all of society. The rationale in the published paper was that as technology-rich societies become more automated, “vigilance-based activities” are increasingly performed during non-daylight hours.
With no way to retroactively determine the fatigue level of workers in industry, it becomes increasingly important for employers to take proactive measures to both educate workers and implement fatigue-risk management policies in the workplace.
SLEEP HELPS FIGHT OFF DEPRESSION
Researchers have found that depression may cause sleep problems. Conversely, sleep problems may also cause or contribute to depressive disorders. According to the National Sleep Foundation, people with sleep disorders or insomnia have a ten-fold risk of developing depression compared with those who sleep well.
With as much as one-third of the population in the United States reporting that they suffer from insomnia, the link between insomnia and depression is concerning. Just as regular exercising helps to increase emotional resilience, proper sleep hygiene contributes to improved mood and resilience.
SLEEP HELPS YOU ENJOY MORE CREATIVITY
Getting more sleep will allow your brain to perform.
We’ve all experienced times when our imagination and creativity is on fire. We’ve also all struggled at times to construct a sentence or get a thought across. Cognitive creativity rises when the brain is most awake and energized. Without sleep, the brain will lack the power it needs to remain productive and creative.
The best part of the cognitive benefits of sleep on creativity is that they’re effectively effortless. As you sleep and your brain enters REM sleep, your brain will consolidate memories and integrate those memories into existing knowledge. This process can help you to effectively problem solve while you’re resting.
SLEEP AND ATHLETIC PERFORMANCE
The links between sleep and fitness are so prevalent that many athletic organizations have taken notice. To read more about the impacts of sleep on fitness, take a look at some of the ways that sleep has an impact on athletic performance.
Interested in learning more about data-driven fatigue management?
or for a comprehensive overview of the scientific link between sleep and athletic performance, download our free Science of Sleep eBook.