Every animal sleeps. So, for basically 1/3 of the day, every animal is willing to give up eating, mating, and watching out for predators. Humans give up a lot more in order sleep, too. A lot of us wish we didn't need to sleep so much; we'd rather be working, traveling, seeing family, or enjoying the little time we have left on this planet.
You might even be one of those people who has tried to get less than the recommended 7-9 hours each night. You tell yourself that you are one of the select few who can sleep 4,5, or 6 hours per night and still feel fine. But I'm sorry to tell you, if you think you don't need as much sleep, you're lying to yourself. Even if you feel great now, your lack of sleep is bound to catch up with you.
If you think you don't need as much sleep, you're lying to yourself. Even if you feel great now, your lack of sleep is bound to catch up with you.
Why is sleep so important to all animals? Because quality sleep is like the Swiss Army knife of health behaviors. By getting better sleep, you can improve nearly every system in your body. Conversely, if you struggle with an illness or other ailment, poor sleep is likely a contributor.
Also, consider this fun fact: when we lose one hour of sleep in the springtime due to daylight savings, there’s a 24% increase in heart attacks, car accidents, and suicide rates. When we gain an hour of sleep in the fall, heart attacks decline by 21% the next day.
Sleep is like the Swiss Army knife of health behaviors. By getting better sleep, you can improve nearly every system in your body.
Here are some more examples to describe how quality sleep benefits every self-healing and self-regulating system in your body:
Sleep Stat #1: Sleep Improves Memory. Sleep does terrific things for memory and learning. In the last two hours of sleep, your brain presses the save button on the things you learned throughout the day. Then, like wringing out a sponge, sleep cleanses your learning palate and prepares you to soak in more information tomorrow. Also, compared to getting no sleep, sleeping for more than 8 hours per night doubles the number of neural connections in your brain. Call me crazy, but I’d say that sleep literally makes you smarter.
Sleep Stat #2: Sleep Improves Productivity. The phrase “You can sleep when you’re dead” is meant to motivate productivity. But, as it turns out, the opposite is true. High-quality sleep makes you more productive, while poor sleep decreases productivity and increases all-cause mortality. So, without proper sleep, you’ll die sooner, get sick more often, and be less productive throughout the day.
Sleep Stat #3: Sleep Debt Leads to Alzheimer's. Your brain is affected by sleep more than any other system, which is why poor sleep is one of the most significant contributors to Alzheimer’s disease.
Sleep Stat #4: Poor Sleep Makes You Infertile. Men who sleep 5-6 hours per night have the testosterone levels of a man who is ten years older. These under-slept men also have smaller testicles, produce fewer sperm, and their sperm have more deformities and less motility. If you want a better sex life, or if you’re trying to have a baby, sleep more.
Sleep Stat #5: Poor Sleep Makes You FAT. Poor sleep messes up your hormones to promote weight gain. When sleep-deprived, you produce more ghrelin and less leptin, making you hungrier and prone to overeating. Sleep deprivation also raises cortisol levels, which stimulates fat production.
Sleep Stat #6: Sleep Makes You Sexier. There is scientific proof that the more you sleep, the more attractive you appear to others. A.k.a., we’ve proven that beauty sleep is real.
Sleep Stat #7: Sleep Makes You More Athletic. Sleep alters muscle memory and increases peak force in muscles, which leads to improved reaction times, reduced injury rates, increased accuracy and speed, and decreased fatigue. In other words, your brain is practicing while you sleep! If you want to be a better athlete, artist, employee, etc., sleep like you mean it.
Sleep Stat #8: Sleep Boosts Your Immunity. Your immune system is most active while you sleep. After one night of inadequate sleep (<4 hours), natural killer cell activity decreases by 70%. One night! Since natural killer cells play an essential role in stopping cancer and tumor growth, we could reasonably assume that lack of sleep increases your risk for cancer and tumors. That is why working the night shift is now considered a carcinogen.
Sleep Stat #9: Sleep Makes You Happier. Sleep is the ultimate antidepressant. One full night of sleep raised depression scores by 6 points on the Harrington Depression Scale, while the most effective antidepressants only improved depression scores by 1.5 points. Similarly, most suicides occur when someone is sleep-deprived.
Sleep Stat #10: Sleep Helps You Regulate Emotions. Picture a young kid having a temper tantrum in the grocery store. The kid’s parents will often say, “I’m sorry; he/she didn’t sleep well last night.” Those parents are correct; poor sleep (specifically, a lack of REM sleep) is associated with poor emotional regulation. And adults are just as likely to be emotionally affected by poor sleep. But, instead of a public outburst, our adult version of a “tantrum” might be misplaced anger, frustration, impulsivity, or a general lack of emotional control. When you get high-quality REM sleep, though, you recalibrate the emotional centers in your brain. Sleep is like an emotional first aid.
Sleeping is NOT a “waste of time.” It’s not worth it to lose sleep to “get a jump on the day” or because you “need to go to the gym.” Sleep is your gym. Sleep is your Swiss Army knife, your ultimate healing tool for any ailment.
I cannot reiterate this enough. Sleeping is NOT a “waste of time.” It’s not worth it to lose sleep to “get a jump on the day” or because you “need to go to the gym.” Sleep is your gym. Sleep is your Swiss Army knife, your ultimate healing tool for any ailment. Sacrificing sleep will make you more susceptible to injury, less productive throughout the day, and less happy with your life. It’s time to take back your sleep, people!
P.S. If you want some habits and tips & tricks for improving your quality of sleep, check out my book, “Lifelong Youth: The Simple Path to a Long & Youthful Life.” You can find it here.
Written by Parker Hewes, a chiropractor, author, American Ninja Warrior, and serial adventurer living in Salt Lake City, Utah. Parker believes learning and growing are the keys to living a full life. He started Getting Gooder to help others learn and grow, so they can create the happiest, healthiest, and wealthiest lives imaginable.
Parker also knows that our ideal life gets even better when we have others to share it with. So, keep following Parker and the Getting Gooder community as we build our ideal, together.