What's that sound? It certainly isn't my alarm clock. Seriously... what is that sound? Ah, it's just most of Europe and North America softly snoring away for a little bit longer than usual. It's National Sleep-In Day! As you may be aware, the clocks go back today, which means that you can go back too (back to bed). This'll be an easy read today, because there's no reason it shouldn't be. To pay the collective respects of MAG to that extra hour of sleep, I want to look at a few ways that sleep can aid your body and mind in effort to offer a reminder of why getting those eight hours is actually really important! Read on...
Hitting those recommended eight hours is a major boost for concentration and - consequently - productivity. This one's pretty much a given, I'll admit but it's also something that so many people neglect to consider when they arrive at work, bleary-eyed from their four full hours of turbulent sleep and wonder why they're struggling. I used to be the kind of person who'd happily survive on 5-6 hours per night. It was only when I started regularly sleeping for 8 hours that I truly realised how much lack of sleep had been impacting my awareness and mental capacity. So don't use that extra hour as an excuse to stay up - use it to catch up!
Sleeping is also the period during which your brain converts short-term memories into long-term memories. This may sound like a bad thing after an embarrassing little public 'incident' in Starbucks, but it's actually vitally-important to our brain's learning processes. Getting enough sleep, in essence, can help us retain the information we've absorbed far more efficiently.
Getting a sufficient amount of sleep can also do wonders when it comes to maximising physical performance. This isn't just for the athletes amongst you - good sleep has been shown to be a significant contributor to your ability to tackle any physical activity. Bad sleep, on the other hand, can have a noticeable negative impact upon things like stamina, strength and co-ordination. This goes for elderly folk walking to the shops just as much as it does for professional sportspeople.
It's rather heavily-linked to depression. To clarify; I'm not trying to claim that poor sleep causes depression or other mental illnesses - such issues are infinitely more complex than that. However, sufferers of depression often note that their sleep quality drastically declines (an estimated 90% of them, in fact). When you're battling an illness that often leaves you feeling lethargic, unmotivated and resistant to leaving the bed, poor sleep is only likely to compound those problems.
Sleeping enough is great for your health - whilst not doing so can be somewhat detrimental. To function at peak performance the immune system needs sleep. A 2009 study showed that people who got less than seven hours of sleep per night were more than three times more likely to catch the common cold than those who got eight hours or more. That's... a big difference for a very small lifestyle adjustment. Sleep is also a weapon against inflammatory bowel diseases, and getting enough of it can reduce your risk of disease recurrence.
These are all fairly well-known facts; I know I'm not breaking any new research ground here (I probably would've, but I slept in so didn't have time). Thing is, I live in London - as I suspect many of our readers do too - and a recurring theme of public transportation here is that everyone looks as if they've had about three hours of sleep and at least a bottle-and-a-half of wine the night before. Whether or not such information is common knowledge is unimportant when so many disregard it. So be more mindful of your sleep! For most people it's pretty enjoyable - certainly easier than a gym session. Just think - if I offered you a delicious drink that would have a noticeably-positive impact on your mental and physical health if you drank it all, would you only drink half of it? If the answer to that question is "I'm not sure," maybe you should sleep on it.