Sleep is as important as clean air, fresh food and water but is often the vital part of our health and wellbeing that we neglect. Late nights can do more than make you feel a little tired and grumpy. When a bad night’s sleep turns into a week or a month or more, it can have a profound effect on your mood, brain function and relationships. This is because quality sleep has far-reaching effects on virtually every system of the body and can be a game-changer for your health and happiness.
So, before you spend another night bedtime procrastinating, here are 5 important reasons you should invest in your sleep:
- Sleep helps regulate our emotional wellbeing – When you get enough sleep, it’s easier to manage your own emotions, and the big feelings of those around you. This is because sleep is closely connected to mental and emotional health. Sufficient sleep, especially REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, or the dreaming stage, facilitates the brain’s processing of emotional information.1 When we sleep, the brain evaluates and remembers thoughts and memories and research shows that poor sleep is especially harmful to the consolidation of positive emotions.1
- Proper sleep keeps you well – There is strong evidence that sleep supports the proper functioning of the immune system. During nightly sleep, the immune system performs critical tasks, releasing protective proteins called cytokines and strengthening immune memory.2 In contrast, poor sleep can increase the risk of getting sick and affect how fast you recover. One study found that people who slept less than 7 hours a night were nearly three times more likely to develop cold symptoms when exposed to the common cold virus, compared to those who got 8 or more hours of sleep a night.3
- Adequate sleep boosts mental abilities4 – Sleep plays a role in many aspects of brain function. It’s essential for preparing the brain for learning and for remembering new information. When we sleep, the brain replays memories from the day and makes our neural connections stronger. On the flipside, if we’re not adequately rested, over-worked neurons find it difficult to coordinate properly and remember things we’ve previously learned. Lack of sleep also affects the ability to problem-solve and make well thought out decisions.
- Lack of sleep can hinder weight loss efforts – When you don’t get enough sleep it upsets the balance of important hormones that help control appetite, energy metabolism and glucose processing like cortisol, ghrelin and insulin. As a result, you’re more likely to overindulge even if you’ve had enough to eat. People who habitually sleep less than six hours a night are most at risk.5
- Sleep improves exercise performance – Are you getting the most out of your workouts? Evidence is accumulating that getting adequate zzz’s is an integral part of the recovery and adaptive process and that improved sleep quality in athletes is associated with improved performance and competitive success. Furthermore, better sleep can reduce the risk of both injury and illness.6
Breaking the cycle of staying up too late mindlessly scrolling, catching up on work or binge-watching a TV series, is a small investment for a huge gain. Protecting and prioritising your sleep is the ultimate form of self-care and can result in a better version of you. If you’re struggling with getting to sleep or staying asleep, there are natural magnesium supplements for sleep available to help calm a racing mind and support healthy sleeping patterns.
- Suni E, 2022, Mental health and sleep, Sleep Foundation, viewed 10 January 2023, <http://www.sleepfoundation.org/mental-health>
- Besedovsky L et al, 2012, ‘Sleep and immune function’, Pflugers Arch, vol 463, no 1, pp 121-37
- Cohen S et al, 2009, ‘Sleep habits and susceptibility to the common cold’, Arch Intern Med, vol 169, no 1, pp 62-7
- Sleep Health Foundation, 2019, Memory, thinking and sleep, viewed 10 January 2023, <http://www.sleephealthfoundation.org.au/memory-thinking-and-sleep>
- Harvard Medical School, 2007, ‘Sleep and disease risk’, viewed 10 January 2023, <https://healthysleep.med.harvard.edu/healthy/matters/consequences/sleep-and-disease-risk>
- Watson A, 2017, ‘Sleep and athletic performance’, Current Sports Medicine Reports, vol 16, no 6, pp 413-418