In our multitasking, go-go world, it seems hopelessly antiquated to consider how sleeping more or better can actually boost your productivity. But it’s a proven fact. Modern science only underscores how important a good night of sleep can be.
The body uses sleep to perform a number of critical functions. Injured cells are repaired. Food is digested and processed into energy. And the mind is given some down time that improves its performance during the day.
Here are some specific ways sleep helps you:
1. Sleep improves your memory. During sleep you can strengthen memories or “practice” skills learned while you were awake in a process called consolidation. So if you’re trying to learn something new, you’ll perform better after sleeping.
2. Sleep helps keep your heart healthy. Heart attacks and strokes are more common during the early morning hours. This fact may be explained by the way sleep interacts with the blood vessels. Lack of sleep has been associated with worsening of blood pressure and cholesterol, all risk factors for heart disease and stroke. Sleep curbs inflammation, which scientists believe plays an important role in heart attacks, strokes and other conditions. And sleep reduces stress, which can contribute to heart problems.
3. Sleep helps prevent cancer. A medical study showed that those who work the late shift have a higher risk for breast and colon cancers. Researchers believe this link is caused by differing levels of melatonin in people who are exposed to light at night. Light exposure reduces the level of melatonin, a hormone that both makes us sleepy and is thought to protect against cancer. Melatonin appears to suppress the growth of tumors. Be sure that your bedroom is dark to help your body produce the melatonin it needs.
4. Sleep sparks creativity. In addition to consolidating memories, or making them stronger, sleep helps the brain reorganize and restructure them, which may result in more creativity. Researchers at Harvard University and Boston College found that people seem to strengthen the emotional components of a memory during sleep, which may help spur the creative process.
So, don’t cut yourself your short and unintentionally sabotage your health and productivity. Get at least seven hours of sleep every night.