We probably all could use a little more sleep. Without adequate shuteye we gain weight and are at higher risk for everything from heart disease to diabetes. And, it turns out, the proper amount of rest, as part of a healthy lifestyle, can benefit so much more than just your heart and your waistline.
- Boost creativity. A good night’s sleep can help words flow better, the paint spread across the canvas with ease. In addition to making memories stronger, our brains appear to restructure them, which may result in more creativity, too. And researchers at Boston College and Harvard found that people appear to strengthen the emotional components of a memory during sleep, which may help spur the creative process.
- Sharpen focus. A lack of sleep can result in ADHD-like symptoms in children. According to a 2009 study children ages seven and eight who got less than eight hours of sleep a night were more likely to be hyperactive, inattentive, and impulsive.
- Help you live longer. Too much or too little sleep has been associated with a shorter lifespan, although it’s not clear if it’s a cause or an effect. (Some chronic illnesses, for example, can affect sleep patterns, too.) But in a 2010 study of women ages 50 to 79, more deaths occurred in women who got less than five hours or more than six and a half hours of sleep each night. Since we know sleep affects quality of life, it stands to reason that if you sleep better, you can live better.
- Reduce inflammation. Inflammation is linked to arthritis, diabetes, heart disease, stroke and premature aging. Research show people who get six or fewer hours of sleep a night have higher blood levels of inflammatory proteins than those who get more. A 2010 study found that C-reactive protein, which is associated with heart attack risk, was higher in people who got six or fewer hours of sleep a night. And those with sleep apnea or insomnia can see improvement in their blood pressure and inflammation when those sleep disorders are treated.
- Decrease depression. A good night’s sleep means more to our overall well-being than simply keeping us from being grouchy. Lack of sleep can contribute to depression, the experts say. But good sleep can make you more emotionally stabile.
It’s important to note that you can’t necessarily fix a lack of sleep during the week by sleeping away your weekend. If the long hours you logged during the week are causing anxiety, stifled creativity or impatience, leading you to sleep more during the weekend, it means you aren’t sleeping enough in the week. So go to bed and get up at the same time every day of the week. Varying your sleeping times by more than an hour can severely disrupt sleep quality by breaking your circadian rhythm. Even if you have to go to bed later on occasion, still get up at your normal time. And when your alarm clock goes off, get out of bed immediately. Don’t hit the snooze button.