April 18, 2022 4 min read
The benefits of a full night's sleep (the professionals recommend a full night is 8 hours a night) are unfortunately not as commonly known as you would think. Something as simple as sleep can provide your mind and body the essentials to better perform. Another way to look at it is if you lack sleep you are deeply impacting your body and mental performance. At HEST we constantly want to understand the benefits of sleep and be an advocate for the importance. One of our favorite professors that is leading this sleep revolution is Professor Matthew Walker, the author of Why We Sleep.
As a team, we have read his book and compiled our own top list of sleep benefits that he has addressed in his research. This list was primarily built from studies and information from Why We Sleep and some of his additional research.
Please know that we, at HEST, aren’t scientists or doctors and don’t take anything we write as an academic research study. Do your own research and conclusions of the benefits of sleep yourself.
Here are our top HEST benefits of sleep.
Consistent lack of sleep increases mental issues. Sleep is great for mental therapy and resting your mind. When you are deep asleep, in the NREM stage, it’s the only time during the 24 hours of the day where you're not producing noradrenaline. Noradrenaline produces many effects in the body, the most notable is increasing your heart rate and blood pressure. This break for the mind is essential each day. Overworked minds can increase tempers and emotions. So make sure to take this mental therapy break, your mind will thank you.
Not just your mind, your body also needs adequate sleep on a daily basis to perform. Sleeping less than 8 hours a night, the harder it is for you to be alert and perform as well as you would like. Professor Matthew Walker said “Sleep is the greatest legal performance enhancing drug (PED) that most people are probably neglecting” in his book “Why We Sleep - Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams”. Lack of sleep can affect your coordination, judgment, and reaction time with daily tasks like driving. Provided by the CDC, being awake for at least 18 hours is the same as someone having a blood content (BAC) of 0.05%. As well as being awake for at least 24 hours is equal to having a blood alcohol content of 0.10%. This is higher than the legal limit (0.08% BAC) in all states. If a lack of sleep is impacting your driving performance, think about the other activities you have during the day that are also being impacted. Would you be working each day under the influence?
When you hit deep sleep at night, your heart rate lowers and your brain waves slow down. Slow brain waves are great for saving memories. During the day you are consistently making new short term memories. Your brain can only store so many short term memories. Think of it like a parking lot. Not until you hit that deep sleep, NREM sleep, will your brain convert those short term memories into long term memories and clear out that parking lot to make room for new ones. This daily clean up and transfer of memories is needed for memory building. Sleeping less than eight hours a night is impacting this memory storage process. A great life hack is to use sleep to aid memory when studying. Make sure to get your full eight hours of sleep after learning to solidify those memories in the long term parking. Additionally, these text book memories are better saved during NREM deep sleep in the beginning of the night. To increase your potential to retain what you study, sleep a full night before learning, this refreshes the memory bank to make room to create new memories.
Unhealthy sleep, unhealthy heart. In a recent study, people that are 45 years or older that sleep fewer than 6 hours a night are 200% more likely to have a heart attack or stroke during their lifetime compared to adults who sleep 7+ hours a night. If that doesn’t make you want to sleep more, I doubt anything else would.
Unhealthy sleep, weight gain. The less you sleep, the more likely you are to eat. Sleeping less than 7 or 8 hours a night will increase your risk of gaining weight or being overweight. Three year olds that sleep 10.5 hours or less a night, have a 45% increase risk of being obese by age 7 then those that get 12 hours of sleep a night. For adults, less than 7 hours of sleep increases your cravings for sweets, salty & fatty foods by 30%-40%. Compared to only a 10% increase in cravings for healthy protein foods like fish or meat. Getting enough sleep will help you control your weight as well as helping you control that excessive eating.
Not just your heart and weight. Sleep also helps protect you from catching viruses like the common cold. People who sleep more than seven hours a night are more protected against the common cold. "Individuals who are sleeping less than seven hours are three times more likely to become infected by the rhinovirus, or the common cold," Walker said, "we know that individuals who are sleeping five hours or less a night are 70% more likely to contract pneumonia."