A good night’s rest is one of the simplest and most fulfilling pleasures in life. So you’d think we would not need anyone to tell us about the actual benefits of sleep because sleep kind of sells itself. However, it’s not always as simple. Life gets in the way and sometimes we just don’t make it the priority it needs to be or we decide that we can sacrifice sleep to achieve other ends. The following is are just 3 reasons why sleep is so important.
Sleep Affects your Mental Judgment
At the very least, lack of enough sleep makes you sleepy. It may be as serious as being unable to keep your eyes open to more subtle symptoms such as being less alert. When you are sleepy, you cannot really focus, concentrate or reason very well. Did you know that sleep deprivation affects your prefrontal cortex (PFC)? The PFC is what is responsible for higher-level cognitive functions. Consequently, if you are sleepy you will have a very difficult time completing any work that requires logical reasoning or complex thought. So next time you are tying to convince yourself to push through sleepiness to get something important completed, you should step back and realize that you are literally not in the best mind to complete it. You would be better-served getting some sleep and putting your full attention, focus and reasoning after that.
Sleep Affects your Mood
Just one night of insufficient sleep can turn you into a moody and irritable monster. So, is it really that crazy to conclude that several nights of poor sleep would have a cumulative effect. “Chronic sleep issues have been correlated with depression, anxiety, and mental distress. In one study, subjects who slept four and a half hours per night reported feeling more stressed, sad, angry, and mentally exhausted. In another study, subjects who slept four hours per night showed declining levels of optimism and sociability as a function of days of inadequate sleep. All of these self-reported symptoms improved dramatically when subjects returned to a normal sleep schedule.” You may think you are getting more done by not getting enough sleep (see above, you are not) but you may not realize that nobody wants to be around you anymore! You are not doing yourself or others any favors by being crabby, stressed, depressed and irritable. You hardly hear anyone describe a terrible boss, parent or friend based on the amount of work he or she did. A terrible disposition destroys all the goodwill of your substantive work/value.
Sleep Deprivation is Dangerous
No, no, not in the sense that you wrote a really bad press release while you were sleepy or added too many zeros to that check you wrote, or in an irritable fit you told your wife that all dresses make her look fat so she should stop asking….well, yes…
…but let’s talk mortal danger. Way too many accidents are a result of sleep deprivation. Too many drivers fall asleep at the wheel and just one second of shut-eye can lead to a pile up on a highway. “The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported in 2009 that being tired accounted for the highest number of fatal single-car run-off-the-road crashes due to the driver’s performance — even more than alcohol!” Studies have also shown that medical errors are reduced when doctors and other medical staff get more sleep. Sleep deprivation was a contributing factor to the collision of the space shuttle challenger and even the nuclear meltdown at Chernobyl.
There you have it. Sleep affects your judgment, mood and lack of it can kill you. Maybe you have trouble sleeping even when you want to. Have you tried Tai Chi to help? It is good for relaxing breathing patterns, reduction of stress and pain management (pain affects sleep). Read more about Tai Chi and sleep here.