Why sleep is so important

Why sleep is so important

You snooze, you don’t lose.

A lack of sleep can make us cranky and foggy-headed, and no amount of caffeine seems to help. On average, adults need between seven and nine hours’ sleep each night. You can work out your sleep requirements by assessing how you feel each day: are you productive and full of beans after snatching seven hours, or do you need nine hours’ quality sleep to perform at your peak?

For many of us, sleep deprivation is common. The Sleep Health Foundation found between 33 and 45 per cent of Aussies have poor sleep patterns that lead to fatigue and irritability, putting them at risk of low productivity, damage to their mental health and unsafe behaviours. The Journal of Neuroscience discovered just 24 hours’ sleep deprivation caused healthy people to have hallucinations and other schizophrenia-like symptoms.

So why is sleep so vital? Well, even though there’s no doubt sleep is a basic need – just like food and water – scientists struggle to pinpoint exactly why we need it so much. We tend to think when we shut our eyes, our body and mind shut down, too. But sleep is actually an active period for us: it’s when processing, restoration and strengthening occurs. There’s growing evidence that sleep allows us to ‘consolidate’ our memories – the process where short-term memory is converted into long-term memory. Other research says sleep helps us remove the ‘rubbish’ from our brain. Just picture a wheelie bin full of waste chemicals being taken out while you close your eyes. Moreover, a good night’s sleep means you’ll:

Get a health boost
Inadequate sleep is associated with heart disease, diabetes and obesity, among other chronic diseases. Catching enough ZZZs can boost your immune system and reduce inflammation.

Supercharge your memory
A study published in the journal Sleep found people who slept fewer than six hours a night scored far worse on memory tests than those who slept eight hours.

Smash your to-do list
Sleep quality is closely related to productivity. Even if you’re moderately sleep deprived, you’ll have a 50 per cent slower response time and a lower accuracy rate on simple tasks.

Look more attractive
Turns out beauty sleep is real: recent research suggests that as little as two nights’ poor sleep is enough to make you look significantly less attractive. If that’s not an excuse to jump between your cotton sheets early, we don’t know what is …

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