The Importance of a Good Night’s Sleep

It’s a given that the non-stop nature of our lives leads many of us to neglect certain aspects of our health. Life gets busy – Juggling diet, exercise, the meeting of social needs, romantic relationships, work performance, aspirations, dreams, hopes, conflicts, fears, etc. is incredibly taxing in practice. It’s no wonder we pay professional jugglers upwards of $100 per hour. Don’t be afraid to take that as an earnest professional tip if you feel like you’re stagnating because Jugglers bring the dollars to the bank and back, even if that means mandatory suspenders and clown makeup.

Now all this clown talk is all well and fine, but let’s not forget the matter at hand: No aspect of our collective wellbeing gets neglected more consistently than sleep.

How bad is the problem? As of 2014, the National Sleep Foundation reports that a whopping 45 percent of Americans experienced “poor or insufficient” sleep every week or so.

45 percent of Americans is significant. If 45 percent of Americans all of a sudden contracted gout, or learned to speak French, or grew gills and marched into the ocean to found a new nation where they could live in aquatic peace (New Sealandia, maybe?) everyone would be talking about it! CNN would be on fire! Twitter would be really, really annoying! Yet the sleep debt problem goes relatively unaddressed. What’s the deal?

Look around you, at your coworkers. Out of ten of them, 4 and a half are having problems sleeping. Maybe you’re one of them or a half of one. If that’s the case, you already know how important a good night’s sleep is. For those who don’t, here are a few reasons why you should start taking shut-eye more seriously.

1. A Lack of Sleep is essentially the same as being drunk

Maybe this one goes without saying, but if you’ve pulled an all-nighter before you know by hour 24 you become about as effective and cogent as a bootlegger who fell in the still. That’s not an exaggeration – an extensive sleep study conducted by The Royal Society for Public health found that “…after 24 hours without sleeping, the body is in the same state it’d be in at a BAC of 0.1%–well beyond the 0.08% BAC that identifies someone as legally drunk.”

This pseudo-drunkenness might make you fun at parties, but it will also make you pretty bad at driving a car. We care about you, dear reader, and don’t want you getting into any sort of car malarkey. We also don’t like to get too morbid here at Positivities, so consider this a sort of Sleep Hygiene Wake Up Call.

2. Not Sleeping = Rapid Weight Gain

Science, how we love to fear you. Granted, you’ve done some real good for humanity, like telling us that dogs are capable of love (as if we didn’t already know) or that we shouldn’t microwave plastic, or even showing us some really cool skeletons.

Our relationship with science is fraught because it’s not afraid to tell us the truth even if it means laying bare our insecurities. It’s hard to hear the truth because learning the truth means potentially changing, and change is scary. This is a roundabout way of saying that a recent massive review study found that children and adults with sleep problems (e.g. short sleep duration) were “89% and 55% more likely to become obese, respectively.”

In short, the less you sleep/the lesser quality of that sleep, the easier it is to gain weight. This phenomenon isn’t totally understood – partially it’s a common sense thing. Less sleep means less energy means less motivation to get to the gym. Less energy also means poorer judgment. It’s harder to control your snacking or adequately monitor caloric intake when you’re bonkers tired. There are also factors at play beyond basic energy issues like the regulation of hormones that dictate your appetite. Sleeping less causes your body to increase the hormones that regulate hunger, making you hungrier overall and your appetite harder to satiate.

If you’re at all concerned about losing weight, sleeping less is definitely hindering you.  We’re not telling you this to frighten you, but because we care, our friends at Muse have you covered with a mattress that confirms just to you.

3. Good Sleep Improves Our Memory

Good Memories are like chunks of solid gold in a prospector’s pan – valuable, the stuff that dreams are made of. Superfluous memories, like what you had for breakfast that morning, are fool’s gold in that very same pan. Like any good prospector, you want to keep all the solid gold nuggets and toss away the rest, right? The process of cementing constructive long-term memories and tossing non-essential information occurs during slow wave sleep, “meaning that the different pieces of what we’ve learned during the day come together coherently so that the knowledge can be accessed when needed.”

Good sleep allows you to commit lessons learned and tender moments to memory, like how an enterprising prospector might bank their gold now to later build their Californian empire.

Just some food for thought!

4.  Sleeping well is directly linked to Athletic performance

Michael Jordan didn’t become Michael Jordan overnight. No, he became the Michael Jordan we know and love over the course of several, restful, sleep-filled nights. We can infer as much based on a recent Stanford University study.

College football players who tried to sleep at least 10 hours a night for seven to eight weeks improved their average sprint time and had less daytime fatigue and more stamina.

It seems pretty standard, but it bears repeating: Sleep can help shape you into a muscle-bound Adonis, the kind that gets on the Wheaties box. Who knows? Maybe poor sleep is the difference between being the Michael Jordan of Basketball and being the Michael Jordan of just about every other sport out there.

5.  Sleeping Right Enhances Creativity

What do Benjamin Franklin, Haruki Murakami, Flannery O’Connor, Maya Angelou and Mozart all have in common? They were all Brain Titans, and they slept like absolute champions.

While you sleep, your brain is hard at work doing necessary maintenance. It untangles memories and restores you physically and mentally. While all the facets of your experience are tumbling about in your sleep-addled noggin, unlikely connections are formed and strengthened leading to an overall increase in creativity. In fact, “Researchers at Harvard University and Boston College found that people seem to strengthen the emotional components of a memory during sleep, which may help spur the creative process.”

Creativity is this elusive and hard to quantify phenomena. What we do know is that regardless of what the science may say, suffering inhibits creativity

David Lynch on Where Great Ideas Come From from The Atlantic on Vimeo.

Don’t suffer needlessly, dedicate yourself to a better sleep regimen. Whether it be engaging in light exercise a few hours before bed to tire yourself out or learning more about Sleep Hygiene. You can do it. We believe in you.

Here’s to a better night’s rest.