Sleep Away!

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Many people may remember their parents saying how important it is to get a good nights sleep when they were kids. Maybe you even find yourself saying the same thing to your kids. In either case the recommendation to get some sleep is well founded. Sleep plays a big role in our lives. The average person, assuming 8 hours of sleep a day, will sleep for around 229, 961 hours in their life time. That translates to approximately one third of their life. With that much time devoted to sleep there must be something important or necessary about it. Keep reading to find out more about the role that sleep does play!

Memory and Learning Improvement – While there is still much to be learned about sleep, memory, and learning, studies have shown that quantity and quality of sleep do have impact on learning and memory. What the research suggests is that sleep impacts learning and memory in two different ways. The first way is that when sleep-deprived a person can’t optimally focus attention which means learning is not as efficient. The second way is that sleep plays a role in memory consolidation which is important for learning new information. Even though the exact mechanisms are not yet known for learning and memory, one theory describes three functions. The first function is acquisition which is the update of new information into the brain followed by consolidation which is thought to be the process by which a memory becomes stable. The final function is recall, which is as the name implies, is the ability to consciously or unconsciously access the information from storage. Now while someone sleeps the mind is actually pretty busy strengthening memories or practicing skills learned. In other words, consolidation is occurring during sleep while recall and acquisition only occur while awake. One more interesting piece is that research has started to introduce the thought that sleep decreases the chances of developing false memories.

Longer life – There is a correlation between too much or too little sleep and a shorter lifespan. Causation has yet to be proven because illness affects sleep patterns as well. Plus sleep also plays a role in quality of life.

Reduce inflammation – What researchers are discovering is that people who sleep six or fewer hours a night have higher blood levels of inflammatory proteins than people who get more sleep. A study in 2010 shows that people who slept six or fewer hours had higher C-reactive proteins which are linked with heart attack risk. Inflammation is linked to heart disease, stroke, diabetes, arthritis, and premature aging.

Hello creativity – Not only does the brain consolidate memory while sleeping, the brain also reorganizes and restructures them which may result in more creativity. According to research done at Harvard University and Boston College, the emotional components of memory seem to become strengthened during sleep which may also help with creativity.

Athlete performance – Studies of football players, tennis players, and swimmers seem to point to one thing. Sleep is linked to a better performance.

Boost those grades – From college age to children, not sleeping enough is linked to worsening grades.

Keeps attention sharp – When sleep deprived, children and adults tend to react differently. While adults tend to become sleepy, kids tend to become hyperactive. So when lacking in sleep children may show ADHD-like symptoms. A 2009 study in the journal Pediatrics reports that children between the ages of seven and eight who got less than eight hours of sleep had an increased likelihood to be hyperactive, inattentive, and impulsive. In general, sleep loss affects how a person thinks – impairs cognition, attention, and decision-making.

Healthy weight – Making sure to get enough sleep can help maintain a healthy weight while not sleeping enough can increase weight gain. Why? It is actually behavioral and physiological. Being tired might make a person less likely to make healthy choices. For example, a person might not have the energy to exercise or make healthy food choices. The physiological comes into play with the hormone leptin. This particular hormone plays a role in making us feel full. When someone is laking in sleep leptin levels drop which results in feeling hungrier. What people tend to crave at this point is high-fat and high-calorie foods. A study at the University of Chicago looked at people who were working on a diet. What the study found was that those who were well rested lost more fat than those who were sleep deprived. Those who were sleep deprived actually lost more muscle mass. All together everyone lost weight regardless of sleep but the key was the type of weight loss.

Keep stress down – Sleep and stress are linked. Both are also linked to cardiovascular health as well. Additionally, there is evidence that sleep impacts cholesterol levels which also plays a role in cardiovascular health.

Reduce risk of injury and drive safely – When exhausted people are more likely to have any kind of accident. Driving is a good example. In 2009 the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration released a startling statistic. The report shared that being tried actually accounted for the greatest number of fatal single-car run-off-the-road crashes due to the driver’s performance. That topped even alcohol! Being sleepy reduces reaction time and decision making. Translation – get some sleep!

Depression reduction – Sleep is important to overall well-being. When lacking in sleep it could contribute to depression but a good nights sleep can help reduce anxiety as the more well rested a person is the more emotional stability.

Hello better immunity – While not yet confirmed there is a possibility that getting enough sleep may help fight of illness. One study has given the first possible link. The study looked at sleep and the cold virus. What the study showed was that people who slept seven or less hours were almost three times as likely to get sick as those who slept eight or more hours. While this study was small and other factors may have influenced the outcomes, it still might be worth striving for a good eight hours.

Grab a pillow and blanket and see you in dream land!

Resources and References:
National Sleep Foundation
Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School – Benefits of Sleep
Health – 11 Surprising Health Benefits of Sleep
WebMD – 9 Surprising Reasons to Get More Sleep
NIH News in Health – The Benefits of Slumber
HealthFinder.gov – Get Enough Sleep
Huffington Post – Benefits of Sleep
TedEd – The benefits of a good night’s sleep
AARP – Why Sleep Is Precious for Staying Sharp
HealthyPeople.gov – Sleep Health
Neurology – Cognitive benefits of sleep and their loss due to sleep deprivation

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