We all know that when it comes to being healthy, your diet and your activity level are two very important factors. But there’s another factor to health that so many people overlook and often skimp on. It’s sleep. Research has shown that sleep plays a critical role in maintaining health and unhealthy sleep habits have a negative effect on almost every other facet of your life.
Here are a few important facts that will make you think twice before burning the midnight oil.
- Research has shown that people who sleep less weigh more. In fact, not getting enough quality sleep is a huge risk factor for obesity. One study showed that children and adults with short sleep duration were 89% and 55% more likely to become obese. These same studies proved that people who are sleep deprived have bigger appetites and consume more calories each day. This is because sleep deprivation disrupts the hormones that regulate your appetite and your hunger and satiety cues.
- Getting better sleep also improves your brain function. When you are well rested, your cognitive, memory and problem solving abilities are higher. One study showed that prolonged periods of short sleep can affect brain functions in the same way that being intoxicated does.
- Sleep affects your physical and athletic performance. A sleep study that followed 2,800 women showed that those who were sleep deprived walked slower, had a weaker grip and had difficulty performing independent activities. And it turns out, the more you exercise the better you’ll sleep. People who say they exercise regularly report better sleep than those who don’t.
- Here’s a sobering fact — poor sleep quality puts you at a greater risk for chronic disease that can shorten your life. A review of 15 sleep studies revealed that people who don’t get enough sleep are at a much higher risk for heart disease, stroke and diabetes than people who regularly clock 7-8 hours a night. One study took a group of healthy young men and restricted their sleep to 4 hours a night for 6 nights. At the end of this period, study participants showed symptoms of pre-diabetes that were reversed when the group increased their sleep duration.
- Do you find that you get sick often? If you’re always getting colds or down with the flu or other viruses getting more sleep can help. Sleep deprivation hampers your immune function and makes it harder for your body to fend off common germs.
Just how much sleep you should get varies, but as a general rule, adults need 7-9 hours a night. And if you think you can squeak by on less without much harm, think again. Every hour that you lose adds to your sleep debt and over time can result in a serious sleep deficit. Cutting just one hour a night is the same as losing an entire night’s sleep once a week.