Waking up

10 Reasons Sleep is Your Secret Superpower

18th July 2019

Spend enough time on corporate social media platforms and you’d be forgiven for thinking that the formula for success is snatching a couple of hours’ sleep a night spent curled up on your office floor.

But whether you’re a student, entrepreneur or employee, the evidence is stacked against these traditional tales of sleep deprivation being a badge of honour.

In fact, counting sheep and catching sufficient shut eye every night could transform the quality of your life – here are 10 reasons sleep is your secret superpower.

1. Enhances entrepreneurial success

When media expert Arianna Huffington collapsed in her office due to overwork in 2007, prioritising sleep helped her bounce back and restore balance. Her book The Sleep Revolution advises meditation and a digital detox as methods for switching off before bed.

2. Enables weight control

If you want to prevent weight gain, a longer sleep duration is just what the doctor ordered. A 2004 study by Wisconsin scientists linked reduced sleep hours with an increase in BMI because it disrupts daytime appetite hormones and reduces motivation to exercise.

3. Increases concentration

A 2002 study by the Department of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School found that good sleep regimes which include adequate periods of REM (rapid eye movement) sleep dreaming empower the creative processes and abstract reasoning that strengthen cognitive networks for focus and memory.

4. Improves physical performance

Whether you’re an athlete or simply enjoy an active lifestyle, getting to grips with your sleep game helps you power up your physical performance. A 2011 study at Stanford Sleep Disorders clinic concluded that basketball players who slept longer had improved speed, reaction times and accuracy.

5. Supercharges studies

For neuroscientist Jakke Tamminen, ‘doing an all-nighter’ to study on the eve of an exam is the worst possible plan for your health and academic success. His studies on sleep deprivation suggest that students who get a good night’s sleep recall key facts much more easily than those who don’t, because even when we’re asleep, our brains continue learning.

6. Prevents diabetes and heart disease

NHS guidance emphasises that people who chronically suffer from a lack of sleep are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes or heart disease. So if you suffer from sleep apnoea or insomnia, ask your doctor about using sleep aids.

7. May reduce risk of depression

A lack of sleep may lead to higher levels of depression, stress and anxiety and, according to US research, just one night without your usual amount of rest might mean that your emotional defences are lowered in challenging situations the next day. On the flipside, maintaining optimal sleep levels may prepare you for most of what life throws at you.

8. Powers productivity

You might not associate NASA with afternoon naps, but one of the space organisations’ studies has shown that when you take a nap of at least 26 minutes between 1pm and 4pm, your productivity is boosted by an impressive 34%. Remember this stat should your tutor or boss ever catch you snoring at your desk!

9. Helps your body repair itself

During sleep, your cells produce surplus protein which helps your body repair itself from the aftereffects of everything from stress to physical exertion and contact with environmental toxicants – so it’s obvious that not hitting the hay properly does damage in the long-term.

10. Improves exam results

Last but not least, a study by neuroscientist Michael Scullin has proven that students who sleep better achieve higher exam marks. Students wore wearable devices to track their sleep and those who maintained eight hours performed better than peers who didn’t – Scullin hopes these results will encourage more learners to develop a positive relationship with sleep.

As you can see, sleeping soundly for your recommended eight hours per night (perhaps with an afternoon nap thrown in for good measure) can definitely improve your chances of staying healthy, happy and successful.

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