For something we’re supposed to spend around a third of our lives doing, sleep is something we don’t pay enough attention to or make enough time for. We’re sleeping less these days, and our quality of sleep is often compromised. As a society, we need to focus more on improving the amount and depth of our sleep, and here’s why.
Inadequate sleep can cause weight gain
People who don’t sleep enough tend to have higher BMIs than those who get enough rest. Not getting enough sleep is one of the highest risk factors for obesity – it’s thought that the weight gain is caused by the interruption of hormones and also by an understandable reluctance to exercise. There’s also the fact that chronically tired people tend to reach for sugar to boost their energy levels.
Sleep improves concentration
Adequate sleep is essential for the brain to function properly; sleep deprivation can hinder cognition, performance, mood and productivity.
Good quality sleep can improve memory and problem-solving skills in both children and adults.
Sleep improves athletic performance
Getting enough sleep makes for better reaction times, attitude, accuracy and speed. Poor sleep is strongly linked to feelings of weakness, slow reactions and recovery times.
Your sleep affects how well you metabolise glucose
If you sleep for less than six hours a night your blood sugar levels will become unstable and you’ll be less sensitive to insulin – the hallmarks of pre-diabetes.
Just a week of restricted sleep can cause pre-diabetes symptoms; thankfully, a few nights of decent sleep will reverse this.
Sleep affects mood
Depression is strongly linked to poor sleep, with around 90% of clinically depressed people reporting sleep problems.
Sleep strengthens the immune system
Even a couple of nights of poor sleep affects your immune system – people regularly sleeping for less than seven hours a night are around three times more likely to contract the cold virus than their more well-rested counterparts.
Sleeplessness can lead to inflammation
Not getting enough sleep has been shown to increase the chemical markers of inflammation and cell damage. This can lead to inflammation of the joints and digestive tract, causing and worsening problems like Crohn’s disease and arthritis.
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