Few of us would deny the pleasure of waking up naturally on a Saturday morning, comfortably stretching out in the warmth of our own bed. What you may not appreciate, however, is just how beneficial sleep can be for our health.
If you’re looking for a reasonable excuse to spend more time in bed this weekend read on for some of the top health benefits of getting more sleep…
#1. Better Weight Control
Numerous studies over the years have looked at the relationship between sleep length and weight control. Research from the University of Warwick in Britain looked at dozens of past studies to find recurring patterns. The scientists involved concluded that “studies from around the world show a consistent increased risk of obesity amongst short sleepers”.
Separate studies have sought to try and discover why this might be. Here there are two schools of thoughts. Firstly, there is evidence to suggest that individuals who don’t get enough sleep release more insulin-resistant cytokines.
Secondly, a University of Texas study found that “increased food intake during insufficient sleep is a physiological adaptation to provide energy needed to sustain additional wakefulness”. Sadly, in cases where food is plentiful, this can inadvertently result in over-eating.
#2.Reduced Diabetes Risk
It has long been suspected that diabetes may be affected by the volume and quality of sleep that we experience on a regular basis. One such study took place in 2009 where 900 diabetes-free individuals were monitored until a proportion developed the disease. The lifestyles of those who contracted Type II diabetes were then compared, to find that getting less than seven hours of sleep each night “was associated with increased odds of diabetes”.
#3.Better Driving Skills
It’s little surprise that tiredness can affect our concentration levels and hand-eye co-ordination. It has been suggested by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents that “driver fatigue may be a contributory factor in up to 20% of road accidents”.
#4.Improved Memory & Work Performance
Anyone who has stayed up late into the night with a sick child (or at a bar!) will know that unpleasant, groggy feeling the following day. It is a feeling that everything takes far more effort than usual, and that important decisions must be put off until a proper night’s sleep has been had.
As it turns out, this probably isn’t your imagination. Numerous cognitive benefits of proper sleep have been shown by scientists over the years. One particularly interesting study asked subjects to learn something new, then to sleep at varying times before being tested the following day. The scientists found that the sooner you fall asleep after learning something new, the better it can be remembered in the future.
#5.Better Mood & Outlook
A study in Japan noted that individuals who slept less than six hours per night were statistically more likely to suffer from depression. Another study looked at those who awaken regularly throughout the night, so may receive less sleep than the rest of us, despite remaining in bed for a reasonable period of time. Here, too, a direction relationship was found between average quality of life and the volume and quality of sleep experienced.
It seems that, at least to a degree, you really can sleep yourself happy.
Conclusion – and a Warning
The evidence seems pretty convincing; sleep longer and enjoy better memory, happier days, less illness and a trimmer figure. However, there is one more morsel of information that every sleepyhead should know; the effects of too much sleep are almost as bad.
Everything in moderation is therefore the answer, with optimum volume of sleep sitting at between 7 and 9 hours per night, like clockwork, irrespective of the day of the week.