As critical as eating healthy, minimizing stress, and exercising regularly are for your health, getting good, uninterrupted sleep is just as important – maybe even more so.
If your sleep suffers, your body suffers.
That’s why you should always strive to make getting good sleep a priority.
Getting the sleep you need each and every night can lead to a number of health-boosting benefits, such as:
1. Improving your Cardiovascular Health
Research shows people who sleep for five or fewer hours per night are 45% more likely to suffer a heart attack than people who get 7-8 hours. When people stay awake longer, according to the study, they tend to have higher blood pressure. And higher blood pressure, of course, increases the risk of heart problems.1
2. Reducing Migraines
One of the most important components of quality sleep is known as REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. This usually takes place anywhere from 70-90 minutes after you fall asleep, and during this time is when much of your dreaming takes place.
REM sleep plays a key role in helping you learn, as well as helping you store memories. Research also indicates that REM sleep deprivation could be a contributing factor to the development of migraine headaches.
In fact, according to the results of one study, REM sleep deprivation activates proteins in the brain that are known to initiate migraines.2
In addition, researchers estimate that as many as 58% of people with sleep apnea (a potentially fatal condition in which breathing is disrupted during sleep) experience migraines when they get out of bed.3
3. Helping You Stay Fit
Many studies show that people who get high-quality, uninterrupted sleep on a regular basis have a lower risk of becoming obese. One study involved 500 participants over a 13-year period.
According to the results, the people who reported they typically get less than seven hours of uninterrupted sleep per night were nearly eight times more likely to be overweight than those who slept 7-8 hours nightly.4
A lack of sleep can have a negative impact on your metabolism, thus making you more susceptible to obesity.
In another study, researchers looked at two groups of people who followed the same diet and exercise routines. One group of participants reported sleeping normally, while the other reported suffering from sleep deprivation.
According to the results, the sleep-deprived group gained weight during the study period, while the group of participants who slept well actually lost weight.5
4. Helping Your Mood and Decision-Making Ability
We all tend to feel cranky when we don’t get enough uninterrupted sleep. One Israeli study showed that a lack of rest can substantially amplify the negative emotions associated with relatively minor annoyances, such as when someone interrupts you when you’re trying to work.6
However, it may also impair your ability to make good decisions.
This is particularly true when it comes to financial choices. Research indicates that when someone experiences sleep deprivation, he or she may be more willing to take financial risks rather than work to minimize economic losses.7
Getting enough uninterrupted sleep is also key to helping you concentrate on your daily tasks, whether you’re at work or at home. People who don’t sleep enough find it very difficult to maintain focus.8
5. Helping to Keep You Safe
Concentration is not only key to helping you do your job – it’s also critically important in keeping you safe.
One Swedish study involving 50,000 people showed that those who experience sleep deprivation are at double the risk of dying in an accident.9
It’s estimated that accidents caused by a lack of sleep have an economic impact of between $43-$56 billion each year in the United States.10
In some professions, of course, it’s more critical to be alert than others. One example is the medical profession. The Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) ruled in 2003 that medical residents should work no more than 80 hours per week, and work shifts no longer than 24 hours.11
However, a study showed that reducing hours to 63 per week could result in residents making fewer significant medical errors.12
6. Increasing Your Pain Tolerance
You might not think there’s a connection between uninterrupted sleep and sensitivity to pain, but research indicates otherwise. There is evidence that not getting enough sleep may impact the effectiveness of certain pain medications.13
Conversely, if you get a sufficient amount of rest, that can, according to research, have a similar effect to low doses of pain medicines.14
When to See a Doctor
If you regularly have a difficult time sleeping, you should seriously consider seeing your doctor. They may recommend that you see a sleep specialist. A specialist will perform tests to determine why you’re having trouble, as well as determine the severity of your issue.
For example, insomnia may be caused by an emotional state (anxiety, stress, depression), but it also could be the effect of medication or even an underlying medical problem.
Working with a sleep specialist can help you figure out why you’re having trouble getting uninterrupted sleep. You can learn certain behavioral techniques to help improve your nighttime sleep, and cognitive therapy might help address any anxiety issues that might be robbing you of your rest.15
The Bottom Line
If you’ve had trouble sleeping for a while, talk to a medical professional. They can help you get to the root of the problem, and put together a plan so you can start getting quality, uninterrupted sleep. Hopefully, it won’t be long until you’re once again having sweet dreams.
And if you don’t have any problems sleeping through the night, keep up the good work! It’s one of the easiest, most effective, and enjoyable ways to improve your health. As mothers everywhere have said, “You’ll feel better after a good night’s sleep.”
Learn More About Sleep:
6 Bad Habits That Are Disrupting Your Sleep
Can Going Camping Help You Get Better Sleep?
4 Tips For Improving Your Sleep Quality (Every Night)