You are getting very sleepy… actually, you probably already are sleepy. Sleep deprivation is a growing concern in Western society, and sleep deprivation is linked to a gamut of health and wellness problems—from weight gain to depression. Even if we do an excellent job of exercising, eating right, and monitoring blood sugar, sleep deprivation could rob us of many of the benefits we are supposed to enjoy from those good behaviors.
A well-rested body has positive effects on your mental, physical, and even spiritual well-being. Proper rest is also essential for controlling blood sugar, improving insulin sensitivity, and boosting immunity, which are all things people with diabetes can appreciate!
Still need convincing? Here are 10 ways your life improves with proper rest:
1. Better Glucose Control and Improved Insulin Sensitivity
The American Diabetes Association found that A1C levels were higher in people who slept less than 4.5 hours a night, and levels were best when study participants slept between 6.5 and 7.4 hours per night. Interestingly, sleeping too long was also linked with higher glucose levels.
Poor sleep can also decrease insulin sensitivity. A study from Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles found that just one night of no sleep has the same effect on insulin resistance as 6 months of a high-fat diet.
2. Boost Immunity and Healing
Sleep is when your body resets and recharges. The heart and blood vessels recover from the stress of the day, and hormones released during deep sleep help repair the muscles, cells, and tissues. Rest also gives your body a chance to fight off sickness, whereas sleep deprivation can weaken your immune system. People running on insufficient sleep are more likely to get sick and will take longer to recover than fully-rested peers.
3. Improve Learning and Memory
Sleep helps us remember things better because the brain organizes and records our memories while we’re sleeping. At the end of a long, busy day, the brain uses sleep time to make sure all the information we’ve taken in during the day gets properly logged. Well-rested people retain information better. Sleep’s critical role in learning is probably why children and teens, who are learning all the time, need more sleep than adults.
Being well-rested also enhances problem-solving skills and helps you navigate life’s curveballs.
4. Less stress
This is reason enough to get more sleep, right? Lack of sleep can raise the levels of the stress hormone cortisol (and cortisol also triggers insulin resistance). Not getting enough sleep both causes stress and makes stress harder to manage. A survey by the American Psychological Association found that adults who reported having less sleep also reported being more likely to lose patience with their children, feel overwhelmed, and skip exercise (which can reduce stress).
Our bodies and minds need a break from the mental stress of the day, but without a good night’s sleep we are more likely to feel overwhelmed and less able cope with daily challenges.
5. Maintain a healthy weight
Sleep deprivation is also linked with obesity, as lack of sleep compromises your ability to make good food choices. If you’re tired you will probably feel hungrier, and you’ll have less ability to control that hunger. The less people sleep, the more they gain weight, and it’s a dangerous cycle that leads to more weight gain over time.
6. Prevent Chronic Diseases
Sleep does more than help you feel rested and avoid colds; it is associated with decreased risk of heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, stroke, and type 2 diabetes. Getting your 7 to 8 hours is essential for good heart health.
7. Better Emotional Coping Skills and Reduced Depression
The brain is less able to control emotions and behavior when it’s tired. Younger people may have an especially hard time managing emotions, moods, and outburst when they don’t get enough sleep. The National Sleep Foundation says that even small amounts of sleep deprivation can compromise your normal levels of happiness and enthusiasm, and people with insomnia are 10 times more likely to deal with clinical depression.
8. Prevent Accidents
It only makes sense that when you’re not functioning at your optimal level, you are more likely to make mistakes. Sleep-deprived people have slower reaction times. If you operate equipment or drive, a split-second mistake could result in injury or worse. Drowsy driving is a contributor to around 100,000 accidents a year, some resulting in loss of life.
According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, people who are lacking sleep, even just 1 or 2 hours a night, may experience microsleep. Microsleep means short periods that are basically you sleeping without being aware of it. If you’ve ever realized that you don’t remember a portion of time that you thought you were awake for, you may have experienced microsleep.
9. Be more productive
If you’re tired you can’t focus or process information as well, which results in poorer work and school performance. Sleep can also reduce motivation so that you care less about whatever you’re supposed to be doing. Even if you’re only losing a small amount of sleep every night, that loss can add up over time and keep you from being the best version of yourself.
10. Save Money
Better health could help reduce your health care costs, and if you’re more focused and productive at work you may be better positioned for promotions. But there’s another cost of being tired: coffee money. American workers, on average, spend about $3 a day on coffee. It’s easy to do, but that adds up to about $90 a month. If we were all getting all the sleep we needed, perhaps we wouldn’t have to dip into our wallets so often.
Sleep is the cornerstone of a well-balanced, healthy life, but it so often it gets pushed to the back burner. As we struggle to fit in work, family, friends, and the million other things that compete for our time, skimping on sleep seems like an easy solution. But it’s impossible to do so without both short- and long-term consequences.
Try to not sabotage your efforts to stay healthy by skimping on sleep, and shoot for your recommended 7 to 9 hours of sleep a night. You work hard throughout the day, and you deserve a good night’s rest! Stay healthy, friends!
Katie Taylor started writing in 5th grade and hasn't stopped since. Her favorite place to pen a phrase is in front of her fireplace with a cup of tea, but she's been known to write in parking lots on the backs of old receipts if necessary. She and her husband live cozily in the Pacific Northwest enjoying rainy days and Netflix.