Why Your New Year’s Resolution Should Be to Sleep More

Why Your New Year's Resolution Should Be to Sleep More

If you are still trying to hammer down your goals for the new year, consider adding sleep to your list. Getting an adequate amount of rest is one of the most beneficial things you can do for your health, body, and mind. If your goals are to eat healthier or lose weight, sleep can help. If your goal is to be in a better mood or to do better at work, rest can give you boost with these as well. Making a New Year’s resolution to improve the quality and quantity of rest you get will pay back big dividends. Learn more about how sleep benefits you and steps you can start incorporating into your day.

10 Reasons Why You Should Sleep More in 2014

In addition to the common sense reasons to sleep, researchers continue to conduct studies showing the big ways sleep affects our body’s ability to function. Sleep deprivation has been shown to cause physical damage to the brain, genetic changes, as well as increase risks of obesity, diabetes, and heart problems. Sleep has also been shown to affect how memory is consolidated, as well as food choices, and appearance. Learn more about why your New Year’s resolution should be to sleep more and how it can impact your overall well-being.

1) Look Better

You will appear more attractive, healthier and less tired to others after a full night’s rest. A small study that rated 23 people based on pictures taken of them after a full night’s rest compared to a night without, showed that they were rated better in all aspects after a full eight hours of sleep.

You may also appear more youthful and help prevent premature aging. Another study showed greater signs of internal skin aging (like fine lines) and weaker recovery for poor sleepers versus good sleepers, and those who got sufficient rest also had higher opinions of their own looks and skin.

2) Eat Healthier

If you have not had enough rest, you may be more likely to crave diet-defeating foods like sugars, starches, and unhealthy fats. Sleep has also been show to influence how sated or hungry a person feels after eating as a lack of rest can affect hormones that produce the feeling of satiety. In a University of Chicago study, sleep-deprived men noted a 45% increase in cravings for high carb foods.

Going to the grocery store while drowsy can also impact the types of foods you buy. One Swedish study set well-rested and sleep-deprived men lose in a grocery store setting with $50 and those who were tired bought more food and more less healthy foods.

3) Prevent Weight Gain & Boost Weight Loss

Not getting enough sleep can affect your metabolism, affect insulin responses, affect hormones, and affect the way your cells utilize carbohydrates as well. All of this can lead to weight gain, and serve to stymie your weight loss goals.

A recent study of college aged women is just one example that indicates that sleep can impact weight gain. It illustrated that women who followed a regular sleep/waking schedule typically maintained their weight better than those who did not. Waking at the same time each day and varying the schedule by less than an hour were deemed two of the most important aspects of the study. Stanford and University of Wisconsin researchers also found direct correlations between hours of rest and body fat, with those reporting the fewest hours of sleep also having the highest body fat and weight.

4) Improve Your Memory

Your brain consolidates memory while you sleep, improving your ability to learn and convert short-term memories into long-term memories. A study conducted at UC Riverside illustrated the importance of “sleep spindles” which are bursts of activity during rest that involve memories, and how they are affected by rest duration and quality. Other studies have also shown how lack of rest can contribute to build up of plaques in the brain that are thought to contribute to later Alzheimer’s, and have demonstrated other exercises showing that sleep can impact memorization and learning both before and after activities.

5) Boost Creativity

Memory is not the only part of the mind that is consolidated while you sleep. Emotions are as well, and this process may help increase your creativity according to two studies conducted at Boston College and Harvard. Insight, reasoning, and relational memory have also been shown to improve with rest. If your goal is to do better at work, start writing, take up painting or any other task involving creativity, getting sleep can help you perform better.

6) Live Longer

According the majority of research and studies, around 7 hours of sleep per night is tied to peak longevity.  Less than 6 hours and more than 9 hours of sleep are both tied with increased mortality.

7) Prevent Inflammation

Inflammation contributes to several health concerns including premature aging, diabetes, heart disease and more, and inflammatory C-reactive proteins and other substances increase when you are sleep deprived. An Emory and Morehouse University Study showed participants receiving six hours of sleep per night or less had higher levels of C-reactive protein. Another study from UC San Francisco showed particular inflammation risks for women with heart disease that are short sleepers, especially those who wake too early.

8) Perform Better

Rest is important for physical activity, as any professional athlete can attest. A major benefit of sleep includes the ability to improve athletic prowess, which is important if you are starting a new gym routine or getting back in the habit. The results of a Stanford University study linked faster sprint times and increased stamina to college football players that got 10 hours of sleep, and similar studies have shown results for tennis players and swimmers as well. Even if you are not a professional athlete, you can still see improved performance at the gym as you will have more energy, focus, and motivation, and the sleep your body needs to repair and recover.

9) Improve Immunity

An improved immune system is linked to sleeping at least 8 hours per night according to a study conducted by Carnegie Melon University researchers. They compared the results with people who slept 7 hours or less and found that people were three times more likely to experience a cold when they received less sleep.

10) Be Safer

Drowsy driving is the focus of several recent public health initiatives, and for good reason. Driving while tired can be similar to and potentially worse than driving under the influence of alcohol. Sleepy drivers have slowed reaction times, poorer decision making skills, reduced attention spans, and the potential for losing consciousness. By some statistics, as many as 60% of adults admit to driving drowsy at least once in the past year (with 37% admitting to falling asleep at the wheel), a problem that is particularly prevalent among teens and young adults. By staying well-rested, you can be safer on the roads, be a better driver, and avoid becoming one of the 100,000+ drowsy motorists that cause accidents each year.

How to Sleep Better

Both children and adults benefit emotionally, physically, and mentally when they receive enough quality sleep. The recommended duration varies according to age, with infants, preschoolers and even adolescents requiring much more sleep than healthy adults, who typically require 7-9 hours per day. If you wake up tired, or are drowsy during the day, you are probably not receiving enough sleep during the night.

  • Kill The Lights. Try light blocking shades to eliminate light from exterior sources, and turn off nightlights in the bedroom. A motion sensing night light can be used to provide adequate illumination for a trip to the restroom without disrupting rest. Cover up any alarm clocks or electronic lights as well, and power down TV’s, laptops and phones an hour before bedtime.
  • Get Cool. Cooler temperatures are ideal for sleep. If you feel hot or sweaty at night, make sure your thermostat is in the 68-72 range, use a fan, and use natural fiber bedding like cotton. Certain types of mattresses can also sleep cooler than others.
  • Get Active. Exercise has been shown to improve sleep quality and duration, adding up to an additional 45 minutes of rest per night after 4 months. Stopping off at the gym on the way home from or to work, or going for a walk in the evening is beneficial for rest, but can also help separate the work day from home and can reduce stress.
  • Get Out. Daylight affects the body’s production of the natural hormone melatonin, which helps regulate your natural circadian cycle. Receiving at least 20 minutes of natural, direct daylight benefits production and will help you feel drowsy at night.
  • Be Mindful. Eat lighter meals at night to reduce indigestion, and avoid caffeine and other stimulants within several hours of bedtime. Try getting your water consumption in earlier in the day, especially if you are prone to waking at night to use the restroom.
  • Don’t Stress. Try not to get preoccupied with sleeping or stressed about not getting enough. Allow yourself ample time to get ready for bed so you don’t feel rushed. If you are tossing and turning because you aren’t feeling tired, get out of bed and do something relaxing in another room like read or listen to calming music until you are ready for bed.
  • Start Small. If you currently are not getting enough rest, gradually move your bedtime back or wake time forward by 15-20 minutes per day until you’ve reached your goal. Aim for a schedule you will be able to stick to pretty much every day, even on the weekends.

With so many benefits related to rest, getting more sleep is one of the biggest ways to make an impact on health and wellness, making it an ideal New Year’s resolution or goal for any time of the year. From looking better, to preventing disease, to supporting healthy weight and eating habits, incorporating good sleep hygiene habits into your life can make for a better 2014 and yield results for years to come.

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