The Festival of Sleep Day and Why Sleeping is So Important
HERE’S A HOLIDAY I bet you’ve never taken notice of before—The Festival of Sleep Day—and it’s today! Of course, if you’re reading this, you’ve already awakened to a new day and are no longer sleeping. But don’t let that stop you from celebrating sleep sometime during the day today, or hit the sack a little earlier than usual and get some extra shuteye.
Sleeping is very important to your health, as I’m sure you know. Here’s what the medical profession says about your need for sleep.
In a process called consolidation, your mind is busy while you sleep practicing new skills and strengthening memories. Whether you are learning a new language or a physical skill, you will do better after you sleep on it. Dr. Rapoport, who is an associate professor at NYU Langone Medical Center, says, “Something happens while you sleep that makes you learn it better.”
Are you sleeping enough—or too much?
Too little rest can shorten your lifespan—but then so can too much. In a study in 2010 of women aged 50 – 79, more deaths occurred in women who either got less than 5 hours or more than 6-1/2 hours sleep. The problem with the study is that it didn’t determine if the problem was cause or effect.
Inflammation proteins in your body can be affected by not enough sleeping, and people who have sleep apnea have shown an improvement in blood pressure and inflammation when their sleep disorder is properly treated (my blood pressure dropped enough that I no longer need medication once my apnea was addressed). Another 2010 study determined that C-reactive protein, which is associated with heart attack risk, was elevated in people who routinely got less than six hours sleep.
A study performed at Stanford University among athletes found that those who got 10 hours sleep a night for seven to eight weeks had faster sprint times, less daytime fatigue, and more stamina.
Attention and learning are negatively affected in children who have sleeping disorders, leading to poor grades and significant functional impairment at school, according to a study in 2010 in the journal Sleep. Although you may be willing to miss some sleep to make a tight deadline, it’s repeated and frequent loss of sleep that leads to impaired learning.
Dr. Rapoport says that a lack of sleep in kids can result in ADHD-like symptoms. Whereas adults tend to get sleepy from lack of sleep, kids do the opposite and become hyperactive. Without about eight hours of sleep a night, children aged seven and eight were more likely to be hyperactive, inattentive, and impulsive.
Dieting can be affected by the amount and quality of sleep you get, too, so if one of your New Year’s resolutions was to drop some of that weight, be sure you’re getting enough shuteye. A University of Chicago study found that those who got more sleep dropped more body fat than their counterparts who did not get as much sleep and lost more muscle.
“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.”
A lack of sleep also adversely affects our ability to handle stress, and some studies have shown that rest affects cholesterol levels, which plays a significant role in heart disease.
If you lack sleep during the week, trying to make it up on the weekend may not be doing you much good. Circadian rhythms allow organisms to coordinate their biological activity with the day-night cycle. Sleeping more on the weekends in an effort to catch up on lost sleep messes with the natural sleep rhythm of your body. In a study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, this disruption of the circadian rhythm caused detrimental health effects.
Chronic, long-term insufficient repose ups your odds of diabetes, depression, cardiovascular disease, even weight gain.
So this year—starting today, the festival of sleep day—determine to change your sleep habits to include 6-8 hours restful sleep every day. You’ll find yourself more attentive, in a better mood, less depressed, and happier for doing it.