Lately I have not been getting enough sleep. I work from home. In fact I worked from home before the Corona Virus hit. We have two kids (3 and 6 months) as of this writing. My partner is on maternity leave but now that our 3 year old is home from daycare for the whole summer getting work done during the day has been difficult. On top of that we moved to a new apartment which was a huge feat that we are still recovering from. As I write this my office is still filled with boxes.
Because working during the day and getting into a good "flow" has been tough, I have found that late nights are when I get my best work done and can really focus without interruption. The problem is, the more I do this, the longer it takes me the next day to get back into the zone which creates even more of a nocturnal cycle.
I'm telling you all this because I know i'm not the only one with similar challenges right now. But there is something many of us underestimate: the power of sleep. People used to say: I'm just a high-energy person or that successful people operate on less sleep. However new research is showing this is simply not true. Sleep is absolutely critical to our overall focus, health and well-being. Sleep scientist Matt Walker debunks alot of the myths around sleep and explains the impacts it has on us physically and mentally.
If you start making sure you are getting a full 7 hours of sleep (Matt Walker says the average adult needs 9 hours to be fully rested) every day you can expect many health benefits.
Health Benefits of 7+ Hours of Sleep Per Night:
- Larger Testicles. From Matt's Ted talk, he wanted something that would catch the attention (of men). Men who sleep 7 hours per night or more have significantly larger testicles than Men who sleep 5 hours per night or less!
- Biologically 10 years younger. Men who sleep 4 hours per night or less have the testosterone level of a man 10 years older than them.
- Female reproductive health is similarly affected by a lack of sleep.
- Better cognitive abilities. Matt did an experiment. He had 2 groups memorize facts. One group slept a full 8 hours the other was kept awake simulating an "all-nighter". The sleep group outperformed the sleep deprivation group by 40%. Matt points out that is the difference between acing and failing an exam.
- May reduce aging-related cognitive decline both natural and genetic. Matt's lab found a correspondence between aging-related cognitive decline in regular patients and Alzheimer patients and a decline in deep restorative sleep.
- Sleep can boost your immune system. Resting your body with a fully rested sleep allows your immune cells to rest, recover, replenish and better fight things like cold and flu. So make sure you get a full 7 hours all the time, but especially during cold and flu season.
- Prevent weight gain. Sleeping a full 7+ hours won't result in losing weight. However research has shown if we don't get enough sleep our bodies produce ghrelin, a hormone that boosts appetite. Your body also decreases production of leptin another hormone that tells your brain you are full. Both of those together is a dangerous combo for unhealthy late-knight snacking.
- Sleep can strengthen your heart. Sleeping too little can release a stress hormone called cortisol. This hormone triggers your heart to work harder. Sleeping a full 7 hours or more can reduce cortisol and give your heart, just like your immune system, time to replenish.
- Increase exercise and sports performance. It may seem obvious. Most professional athletes are aware of the importance of sleep. Research shows fully rested people have better hand-eye coordination, muscle recovery and reaction times.
- Boost your mood. I think this one is pretty obvious. But what you may not know is while you are sleeping your brain is processing emotions. When you cut this process short your brain has a tougher time handling how to react to situations during the day.
- More stable blood sugar. Get this: more and better sleep can make you less likely to get Type 2 Diabetes. The reason is because deep, slow-wave sleep drops the amount of glucose in your blood. If you are constantly waking up, or having restless sleep your blood sugar does not get this natural "reset".
References: Sleep Scientist Matt Walker's Ted Talk 2019