Sleep is undervalued in our society. Many people think that they function perfectly fine with 6 or 7 hours of sleep, but the truth is, we need at least 8 hours of sleep each and every night. I used to plan my sleep around my schedule, fitting it in where I could and if I had to pull an all-nighter to get things done, it was no big deal. Now, I make sure to plan my schedule around my sleep. I’ve discovered that when I get a good night’s sleep, I’ve become more productive, procrastinate less, and fit in 8 hours of sleep is easily, because I get more things done throughout the day.

Here are 6 scientifically backed reasons why you need to get more sleep.

Memory

For those of us still at university, this reason is going to be important for motivating us to get to bed on time. Studies show that sleep is not only beneficial for memory consolidation, but a necessity. So next time you think about staying up later to cram in more information while studying for a big exam, know that this effort will be counterproductive. It’s going to be much more beneficial to study throughout the day and get a good night of sleep before exams. Tip: taking a nap (in addition to a full 8 hour sleep) after learning new information also provides a sleep benefit.

Beauty sleep

Researchers showed that people who got 8 hours of sleep looked healthier, less tired, and more attractive than those who got no sleep. Not only will you feel better after a good night of sleep, you’ll look better and feel more confident.

Immune system

Studies show that when people are administered a cold virus, the participants that got less than 5 hours of sleep were 4 times as likely to catch the cold than participants who got 7 or more hours of sleep. If that’s not convincing enough for you, research shows that sleep loss is a possible carcinogen. Getting only 4 hours of sleep reduces your natural killer cell count by 70%. These are the cells that destroy dangerous things in our bodies (i.e., cancer cells).

Weight

Participants in a study went through two different conditions: sleep normally for 2 nights and be sleep deprived for 2 nights (only 4 hours of sleep). When participants were sleep deprived they felt significantly hungrier and had a 32% increase in appetite for carb-rich foods.

Emotional stability

Do you ever feel grumpy after getting less sleep? There is actually a scientific reason for this. With normal sleep, our prefrontal cortex, which controls logical reasoning, sends an inhibitory signal to the amygdala, the region for emotional reactions. These regions usually balance each other out, making us emotionally stable. Our prefrontal cortex is the brake and the amygdala is the gas pedal. When we don’t get enough sleep, our brain is all gas pedal and no brakes, so we will have more emotional reactivity.

Creativity/problem solving

Some of the most creative and innovative ideas have come from a good night of sleep. The classic songs Let It Be and Yesterday by The Beatles came from dreams and the periodic table was also conceptualized during a dream. Studies show that participants are more likely to come up with a solution to a task after a night of sleep. This is why people always say to “sleep on it.” Sleep can actually provide us with insight to our problems.

Tips for getting more sleep

  1. If you’ve been trying to sleep for over 20 minutes, leave your bedroom and do some relaxing activity (reading in dim lighting, meditating) and then go back to bed. This will associate being in bed with sleeping.
  2. Set an electronic curfew. Avoiding the light from TV screens and your phone is going to help you fall asleep at night.
  3. Set routines based around your sleep. Go to bed at the same time every night and wake up at the same time in the morning. Have a nighttime routine that you do before sleeping every night.

How much sleep do you typically get each night? Do you have any additional tips for a good night’s sleep?

get-more-sleep

In case you’re interested in learning more, here are the sources:

http://www.bmj.com/content/341/bmj.c6614

http://www.fasebj.org/content/10/5/643.short

http://www.journalsleep.org/ViewAbstract.aspx?pid=30153

http://annals.org/article.aspx?articleid=717987

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