Getting a good night’s sleep is more than a luxury. It’s vital to maintaining good health and enabling us to function at our best. Here are six important benefits of getting good sleep:
1. Helps your body fight infection and stay healthy.
2. Helps keep your heart healthy by reducing stress and lowering blood pressure.
3. Improves memory and helps your brain process new experiences and knowledge.
4. Helps control body weight.
5. Lowers the risk of diabetes.
6. Reduces the occurrence of mood disorders, such as depression or anxiety.
While evidence shows that good sleep is important, most people are getting less and less of it. To keep up with longer or nighttime work hours and continual, instant access to entertainment and other activities, we tend to cut back on our sleep. A common myth is that people can learn to get by on little sleep (less than six hours a night) with no adverse consequences.
Research suggests, however, that adults need at least 7–8 hours of sleep each night to be well rested. But recent surveys show the average adult now sleeps less than 7 hours a night, and more than one-third of adults report daytime sleepiness so severe that it interferes with work and social functioning. Insufficient sleep, and even poor-quality sleep, can lead to an increase in mistakes at work, decreased productivity, and even dangerous accidents.
In recent years, fatigue and inattention due to a lack of sleep have been identified as significant factors in the nuclear accident at Three Mile Island, the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger and even the grounding of the Exxon Valdez oil tanker. Automobile accidents are often caused by drowsy drivers. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that 100,000 police-reported crashes each year were the direct result of driver fatigue. The Institute of Medicine estimates that drowsy driving is responsible for fully 20 percent of all motor vehicle crashes.
As many as 70 million Americans may be affected by chronic sleep loss or sleep disorders, at an annual cost of $16 billion in health care expenses and $50 billion in lost productivity.
Sources: National Institutes of Health, American Sleep Foundation.