The good news is that sleep is not only essential but also restorative: it makes you feel better, and look better by banishing those ugly circles under your eyes; it also helps you perform mental tasks more effectively – remember to heed the advice to get a good night’s sleep before that important exam!
Moreover, it promotes wound healing, helps to keep your immune system fighting fit and is the time when your body’s cells undertake a lot of repair work.
Although different people can get away with different amounts of sleep in a night – inventor Thomas Edison famously claimed it was waste of time – most people spend anywhere between five and 11 hours in their slumbers – with the average being just under eight hours – or about a third of their lives.
Enhance your memory
During sleep, a process called ‘consolidation’ enables you to ‘practice’ physical and mental skills learned while you were awake. After sleeping, you perform better.
Increase your grades
Kids between the ages of 10 and 16 with interrupted sleep patterns are more likely to have problems with attention and learning, a 2010 study in the journal Sleep discovered. Another study found that college students who didn’t get enough sleep achieved worse grades than those who did.
Sharpen your attention span
Younger children, aged seven and eight, who got less than about eight hours of sleep were more likely to be hyperactive, inattentive and impulsive, according to a 2009 study in the journal Pediatrics.
During sleep, our brain appears to reorganise and restructure memories in addition to reinforcing and consolidating them. This potentially increases creativity. Research from Harvard University and Boston College found that people may strengthen the emotional components of a memory during sleep.
Reflecting previous results amongst swimmers and tennis players, a Stanford University study found that college football players who tried to sleep at least ten hours a night for seven to eight weeks improved their average sprint time. They also had more stamina and less daytime fatigue.
Sleep also has an effect on diet and weight gain. Research from the University of Chicago found that dieters felt hungrier when they got less sleep. However, when well rested, dieters lost more fat – some 56% of their weight loss – compared with those who were sleep deprived. The sleep-deprived group lost more muscle mass although they shed similar amounts of total weight.
Sleep affects our cardio-vascular health by lowering our stress levels and helping us control blood pressure. Sleep is also believed to affect our cholesterol levels, another significant factor in heart disease.
Sleep helps reduce inflammation 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 levels of inflammatory proteins in their blood.