Did you know that March is THE month to celebrate all things sleep? For the snoozers among you, it’s worth knowing that it’s officially World Napping Day on the 11th, and for the more serious dreamers, World Sleep Day on the 15th. Unless you work at Hush Home, where we’ve been campaigning to get the month declared World Sleep Month, your boss might not be actively encouraging you to celebrate either day, but we thought it was a great time to share with you the benefits of sleep, why we need 8 hours of sleep, and why sleep is so important. Along the way, we hope we can encourage you to turn off the lights a few minutes earlier and enjoy all the benefits that a good night’s sleep offers!
We all wish for just a little bit more sleep, whether it's because of a busy day ahead, a heavy weekend, or a new addition to the family. But it shouldn’t just be a wish for us! Why’s that? It’s scientifically proven that 8 hours of sleep is a necessity to a healthy you in so many ways. With the myth of the “sleep bank” debunked some time ago, meaning that you can catch up on missed sleep with no ill effects, it is now believed that having 8 hours of sleep on a regular basis is the best way to be the best version of yourself every single day. Need convincing that a Saturday morning lie-in isn’t going to make up for your week of missed snoozing? Read on the science behind why sleep is important:
Evolution has seen us programmed to sleep for around a third of a day, and there is a good reason for this. Sleep is when our body repairs and regenerates, with extra protein being produced, providing the building blocks needed for those repairs, so any missed sleep time means your body cannot be at its best. To keep your body at its prime, and in the best shape to stay healthy and fight disease, doctors have long recommended a healthy diet and exercise, but are now declaring sleep to be just as important, if not more important. How can sleep benefit your health?
Just as sleep repairs your internal organs, it also does wonders for your skin. Sleep reduces inflammation in the body. This is important for your skin in a few ways. Inflammation leads to a breakdown of collagen and hyaluronic acid, both vital for the naturally glowing skin that everyone wants!
Just as importantly, while asleep, the body also carries out vital rehydration. If this doesn’t occur, you may wake up with dull looking, dry skin, puffy eyes, and more visible wrinkles.
Need more? Sleep allows your stress hormones to decrease, thus reducing the likelihood of skin conditions triggered by stress. People who suffer from acne, psoriasis, and eczema commonly see improvements in their skin when sleeping well. It is a bit of a vicious circle - the condition can lead to itchy skin which can irritate the sufferer, leading to nighttime scratching which disrupts sleep and which makes them more stressed and so on. If you get your 8 hours of sleep consistently, get your sleep sorted and this bad cycle is broken.
Research has shown that those who sleep over 7 hours a day are far more likely to be a normal and healthy weight. Why? It is thought that lack of sleep affects the hormones in the body that regulate hunger and fullness signals (ghrelin and leptin) meaning those who don’t sleep enough are likely to suffer a double-edged sword - they are programmed to crave less healthy food when tired, plus their body doesn’t receive the signal that it’s full thereby overeating every meal.
One dieting myth is that eating late at night will lead to weight gain. However, successful dieting normally comes down to burning more calories than you eat, not what time of day you do it. On that note, did you know that good sleeper is far more likely to stick to the gym or fitness routines because they wake up with more energy and enthusiasm?
As well as affecting your ability to deal with stress, sleep also interacts with many different chemicals in your body that affect your mental health.
On a daily basis, we all want to wake up with enthusiasm and a drive to make the best of every day - whether at work, home or play. That is something made entirely possible by sleeping for 8 hours a night, This gives your body the energy to see you through the day and your mind the ability to work to it’s fullest. Get a good night’s sleep and you are much more likely to enjoy a generally positive mindset and outlook than someone who struggles with sleep issues that affect their waking hours.
In severe cases, such as insomnia, thought to affect nearly half the population at any one time, the inability to sleep can cause new and affect existing mental issues. Insomnia can lead to stress and depression with the frustration of laying awake Insomnia may also be a risk factor in developing anxiety disorders, and research showed those who already have an anxiety issue take longer to fall asleep, sleep lighter and for less time, although which causes which is still unknown - it seems to be another vicious circle.
One of the major benefits of sleeping well is the improvement in your performance at work. Everyone wants to be their best at work, but getting the right amount of sleep goes beyond avoiding being found napping at your desk. While you sleep, your brain is as active as it is during your waking hours! During these hours its working to help you by processing everything you have done and learned during the day, storing it in the right places so you can remember, recall and build on them.
In fact, it is thought by some that your dreams are essentially your brain playing back, processing, and filing the events of the day. Get the right amount of sleep and you won’t just wake up feeling energised and ready for your day. It’s proven that a well-rested brain is better at mental performance, from calculations to logic and recall to rational thought processes.
Want to be that person in the office who can recall a client’s name in an instant or remember exact figures during a sales meeting - make sure you are getting those 8 hours of sleep! A good business decision often has to be made quickly and with a better sense of judgment, memory and the knowledge that your increased productivity has given you - all a direct result of the increased capacity of your brain from a good night’s sleep - will have you standing out from the crowd in the workplace.
Before you head to the gym you probably make a mental note to eat something and drink a little extra water, but do you make sure you’ve slept? If you want to benefit from the gym, you need to benefit from sleep. People exercise to benefit their health for many reasons - cardiovascular, weight or aerobic - but none of these can happen if your body is not rested and exercising while not sleeping optimally is essentially a waste of your bodies resources.
By now you know that the body repairs and regenerates during sleep, and that goes for muscles which are repaired, recovered and built up after an exercise session. If you don’t give your body that chance, then you won’t get the most out of your workouts. When you get a good night’s sleep, the body also produces growth hormones. In younger people, this is vital for physical growth, but as we reach adulthood its function is to build muscle and repair your aches and pains after a workout. If you want to remain injury free, heart-healthy, and strong, then sleep is the way to go.
You may not be a gym bunny, but waking to face the day with a spring in your step is the key to getting out and about and enjoying yourself. A walk in the park with your furbaby or a trip to the playground with the kids is made much more fun if you are fit and healthy enough to enjoy it. One of the major benefits of sleep that shouldn’t be overlooked is this - going out and having fun!
If you and your partner are more homebodies, it’s worth knowing that a recent study showed that missing a few hours sleep led to a reduction in testosterone levels in men, leading to reduced libido and energy… maybe a lie-in could be excused to reward a good night’s sleep?
As you can see, getting regular sleep has benefits in every aspect of your life, not just the obvious ones. From better health, skin, performance, energy and outright fun maybe we’ve shown you why sleep is important for your daily life and ongoing lifestyle and why you should take your sleep a little more seriously. So if you need a reason to go to bed that little bit early, or lie in and enjoy the comfort of your premium mattress little bit longer, just remember - science says it’s a wise move!
Certified Wellness Consultant &
Co-founder of Hush Home
As a certified health and wellness consultant, Stephanie is on a mission to inspire everyone to live a fuller life by sleeping better.
Stephanie designs and leads Hush Home's sleep workshops for Fortune Global 500 Companies such as Citibank, Manulife, and Standard Chartered to boost their employee performance and productivity with sleep science.
When Stephanie is not getting her 8 hours of snooze in, or reading and writing about sleep & wellness, she’s probably somewhere hiking with her little pomeranian, Dookie!