It is common knowledge that proper sleep habits can help your heart, mind, weight, and much more.
According to Dr. David Rapoport, director of the NYU Sleep Disorders Program "Sleep used to be kind of ignored like parking our car in a garage and picking it up in the morning".
Your mind is surprisingly busy while you snooze. During sleep you can strengthen memories or "practice" skills learned while you were awake (it’s a process called consolidation).
"Many things that we take for granted are affected by sleep," said Raymonde Jean, MD, director of sleep medicine and associate director of critical care at St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital Center in New York City.
"If you sleep better, you can certainly live better. It’s pretty clear."
Inflammation is linked to heart disease, stroke, diabetes, arthritis, and premature aging. Research indicates that people who get less sleep—six or fewer hours a night—have higher blood levels of inflammatory proteins than those who get more.
If you’re an athlete, there may be one simple way to improve your performance: sleep.
A Stanford University study found that 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.
"If you’re trying to meet a deadline, you’re willing to sacrifice sleep," Dr. Rapoport says, "but it’s severe and reoccurring sleep deprivation that clearly impairs learning."
"Kids don’t react the same way to sleep deprivation as adults do," he adds. "Whereas adults get sleepy, kids tend to get hyperactive."
A 2009 study in the journal Pediatrics found that children ages seven and eight who got less than about eight hours of sleep a night were more likely to be hyperactive, inattentive, and impulsive.
Researchers at the University of Chicago found that dieters who were well rested lost more fat—56% of their weight loss—than those who were sleep deprived, who lost more muscle mass. (They shed similar amounts of total weight regardless of sleep.)
Dieters in the study also felt more hungry when they got less sleep.
"Sleep and metabolism are controlled by the same sectors of the brain," Dr. Rapoport says. "When you are sleepy, certain hormones go up in your blood, and those same hormones drive appetite."
"Sleep can definitely reduce levels of stress, and with that people can have better control of their blood pressure," Dr. Jean says. "It’s also believed that sleep effects cholesterol levels, which plays a significant role in heart disease."
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported in 2009 that being tired accounted for the highest number of fatal single-car run-off-the-road crashes due to the driver’s performance—even more than alcohol!
"Sleepiness is grossly underrated as a problem by most people, but the cost to society is enormous," Dr. Rapoport says. "Sleeplessness affects reaction time and decision making."
Insufficient sleep for just one night can be as detrimental to your driving ability as having an alcoholic drink
"A lack of sleep can contribute to depression," Dr. Jean says. "A good night’s sleep can really help a moody person decrease their anxiety. You get more emotional stability with good sleep."
"If you sleep more on the weekends, you simply aren’t sleeping enough in the week," he says. "It’s all about finding a balance.
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