Health Benefits of Maintaining a Regular Sleep Schedule
When we were kids, our parents made sure we went to bed at a certain time, even though we cried and whined, wishing we could stay up longer. Now as adults, that sleep schedule has been tossed aside as we make our own bedtime rules. However, numerous studies have shown that the sleep schedule we were forced to maintain as kids had a significant impact on our overall health.
As an adult, maintaining a regular sleep schedule can be difficult with all the pressures of work and family life. But with something as important as our health on the line, we can definitely do more to sleep and wake up at the same time each day. This even includes the weekends when most of us feel we have earned our right to sleep in.
So why is maintaining a regular sleep schedule so important? Here are a few reasons.
Sleep Can Help You Live Longer
Adults need 7-8 hours of uninterrupted sleep every night, and anything less than this can shorten their lifespans. It all comes down to what are known as Telomeres, which are protective caps found at the end of chromosomes. As we get older, these caps become shorter, diminishing the capability of our cells to replenish themselves – that is how these caps are linked to the aging process.
Studies have shown that people who sleep seven or more hours a night tend to have longer telomeres. The telomeres of people who manage five or fewer hours of sleep were found to be much shorter. This means sleeping is key to keeping these caps longer in order to keep your cells going strong for a long time.
Sleep Gives Your Immune System Gets a Boost
Lack of sleep can weaken your immune system, making you susceptible to viral infections like the common cold. Your immune system releases proteins known as cytokines while you’re asleep, and their levels need to be elevated in times of infection or high inflammation. When you don’t get enough sleep, your body just doesn’t have enough of these proteins to fend off illness.
Plus, when you don’t get enough sleep, the body produces fewer antibodies and cells that are helpful in a fight against infections. This further compounds the problem of a weakened immune system since you’re not giving your body the rest it needs to beef up its natural defenses.
According to a study, where researchers exposed 153 participants to the cold virus, those who slept less than seven hours were nearly three times (2.94) more likely to develop a cold. Researchers concluded that lack of sleep makes the immune system less resistant to illness.
Sleep Makes Your More Social
Humans are social animals, which means it is in our very nature to be sociable (seek out other humans to socialise with) to ensure our well-being. In fact, being sociable has its own set of health benefits, including adding years to our lives, boosting physical and mental health and even lowering the risk of dementia.
Much of how we socialise depends on our ability to recognise prosocial emotional expressions, such as happiness, surprise, fear, sadness, disgust and anger, in other people. And it turns out that lack of sleep significantly impairs this crucial ability.
Researchers believe sleep recalibrates our brain’s emotional function. This enables us to be sensitive to other people’s facial cues that communicate emotional information. When we don’t sleep enough, our brains can’t do much with this information, which is not good in furthering our efforts to socialise with others.
Sleep Improves Memory
If you have tried to learn anything without getting a good night’s rest, then you know it is a war of attrition. Particularly, if that thing you are trying to learn is an instrument, you end up making a lot of frustrating mistakes because it is hard to even remember the most basic steps. Sleep is needed to effectively retain and retrieve information.
In short, sleep strengthens our memories. During sleep, our memories are effectively transferred from short-term to long-term storage since that is when the connections that transfer information between brain regions are strengthened.
This means if you are trying to learn a new language or instrument, you are better off going to the class after getting enough sleep. You should also aim to get uninterrupted sleep that night as well for the newly-learned information to sink in.
Getting the recommended amount of sleep carries with it some important health benefits that cannot be ignored. Lack of sleep, on the other hand, does the opposite, and no one wants to experience that. That is why it is important for us adults to have a sleep schedule (like when we were kids) and do everything in our power to stick to it.