Sleep is still a little bit of a mystery to us all. We’re millions of years into human history and we still haven’t really figured out why sleep is something that humans have to do on such a regular basis to survive.
I mean we do know what the benefits of it are and the positive effect that it has on our body, but it’s unclear why humans, and all animals really because the entire animal kingdom is in the same boat, can’t be awake for more than like 12 hours at a time.
If you think about it, our bodies are extremely inefficient. Each of us will spend roughly a third of our lives asleep. Isn’t that insane? An entire third of your life. We’re only here for about 80 years, 90 if we’re lucky, and we’re going to spend a third of that asleep?
It’s pretty bizarre. I mean sleep is great and everything, but that’s only because we get tired so easily. We like actually doing stuff and in reality sleep just gets in the way. Consider how much more time you could spend with your family, exercise, read or be creative if you were always awake.
Because if we didn’t need it we wouldn’t have the desire to do it so you’d never be tired. But look, I’m ranting a bit here. It seems pointless but we have to do it. Those who get less sleep are worse off for it.
While it does depend on your age, most adults need to sleep for eight hours every night. Anything less than that and you will likely feel some effect, even if it’s mild. Everyone should make a point of tracking their own sleeping pattern so they can see this in action.
Feeling fatigued and lacking in energy is one thing, and you’ll probably feel that if you’re on a few hours of a deficit, but consistently bad sleep can lead to much more serious issues. Let’s take a look at some of the larger benefits of good sleep:
1. It Lowers Your Risk of Heart Disease
Heart disease affects millions of people every single year and it can be brought on by a number of different things. Your diet, weight and lifestyle are all factors that can result in heart disease in the future.
But one of the leading causes is hypertension, otherwise known as high blood pressure. This refers to the force at which your blood is pushing against the inner walls of your arteries on a long-term basis.
You may have heard people say that when you’re stressed or putting your body under strain that your ‘blood is pumping,’ which is an accurate way to describe it and it’s what leads to high blood pressure.
When this happens, plaque can start to build up inside your arteries which can put your heart under serious pressure and eventually lead to heart disease. The more time you spend asleep, the more chance your body has to regulate your blood pressure because your body is under no strain at all.
The worst thing about this is that people with high blood pressure will often not have any symptoms so it’s important to keep an eye on things like your sleeping pattern and your diet even if you’re not feeling bad.
2. It Enhances Productivity
This one shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise. It’s no secret that when you’re sleep deprived your brain doesn’t work quite as well as it normally does. Your focus, your memory, your capacity to avoid distractions, these all suffer.
A study was conducted on a group of medical students, perhaps some of the most sleep-deprived people in the world, and it was determined that those on an extended work week made almost 40% more medical errors.
Potentially disastrous when it happens to doctors, but really no matter what your job is, or even what your hobbies are, you want to be able to perform to the best of your ability so that you can get the best results.
Some people have the philosophy that they should sleep less so that you can have more time to work on the things you’re passionate about, but if you can’t progress with your passions or enjoy them to their fullest extent, is it worth it?
Getting more sleep can help you optimize the time you do have to work on your passions because your cognition and focus will be completely uninhibited.
3. It Builds Up Your Immune System
Your immune system is arguably the most important aspect of your body. Your general health is entirely determined by how strong of an immune system you’ve got. It is made up of different organs cells and proteins all working together to keep you healthy.
White blood cells, antibodies, the lymphatic system, each of these serve a different function in keeping disease and infection away and how effective they are is determined by how you live your life. Exercise helps, certain foods help, and sleep most definitely helps.
What it really comes down to is that while you’re asleep, everything gets the opportunity to rest and otherwise it will be overworked. The same applies to each individual component of your immune system. So being sleep deprived will stifle their effectiveness.
4. It Keeps Your Mental Health in Check
People with sleeping disorders generally have a much higher chance of suffering from various mental health issues. Insomnia, sleep apnea and persistent night terrors are commonly linked to depression.
Of course not everyone who is sleep deprived is so because of a disorder, but the logic is that the consequences of bad sleep will take their toll on how you feel mentally. You won’t be able to focus on anything, and you won’t be able to stay active.
These are two things which are essential for good mental health and they’re basically impossible if you’re sleep-deprived.
5. It Helps You Keep Your Weight Under Control
This might seem like an odd one, but it’s true. Sleep deprivation is actually one of the leading risk factors for obesity. There are a couple of different reasons as to why these things are connected.
For one thing, you will lack energy and as such you will lack motivation to exercise. But as well as that, you will find yourself eating more in order to give yourself the energy that you’re not getting by giving your body time to rest.
So to sum up, I can’t offer you any insight into the true purpose of sleep because we just don’t know what it is. But what we do know is that if you don’t sleep enough, your mind and body will suffer for it. So give yourself eight hours a night as often as you can.