The stressful pressure of an imminent deadline engulfs you like flash floods. Over the last several nights you’ve heroically sacrificed sleep to get ahead of the game, and even completed your task days ahead of expectation. You feel like you’ve won, but you’ve actually lost. In fact, skimping on shut-eye sets you back — way back — even when you meet your deadlines.
Piles of studies show a causal link between a consistent lack of sufficient sleep (7 to 8 hours) and an alarming number of potential health problems: an increased risk of diabetes, obesity, heart disease and high blood pressure.
And that’s just the physical stuff; ongoing sleep deprivation can also cause or exacerbate mental health issues. Some researchers, like Jean Twenge, Ph.D., a psychology professor at San Diego State University, have argued that millennials and Gen Z are suffering the highest rates of anxiety and depression we’ve ever seen because smartphones have whittled down sleep quality and duration.
For younger cohorts, quality sleep is especially critical. The brains of adults and younger people operate differently. The prefrontal cortex (the rational part of our brain) doesn’t fully develop until age 25. That means that teens and young adults are often ruled by their amygdala (the emotional part of the brain). Add several bad slumbers into that mix and a whole mess of bad decisions and anguish ensues.
Sleeping well doesn’t just protect you from negative outcomes; the mental, emotional and physical health benefits it provides will improve your relationships, professional life — and help maximize the rewards of your exercise routine. Here’s how:
Keep the peace
Record numbers of Americans are stressed (8 in 10, according to a 2018 Gallup poll), especially those within the Gen Z demographic, and stress combined with sleeplessness compromises our capacity for patience and understanding. One study shows that well-rested individuals are better able to regulate their emotions and are less reactive and condemning when loved ones fall short. To boot, good sleep hygiene improves our capacity for empathy, creating greater understanding and less judgment and, in effect, more harmonious relationships.
Tip: Sleep evangelist and author of “The Sleep Revolution,” Arianna Huffington advises shutting down all electronic devices an hour before going to bed. It will hike up the odds of getting the right quantity and quality of Z’s: Science shows that the blue lights they emit mess with our circadian rhythms, which can result in shoddy and insufficient shut-eye.
Move on up
Nothing enhances brainpower like a night of sweet slumber. It boosts creativity and the ability to complete tasks with greater efficiency, in turn, promising greater professional success. The modern workforce demands that we process information quickly and finish projects at superhuman speeds — and sleep is the magic elixir that helps us do that. After 8 hours of restful sleep people are more than twice as likely to look at and solve complex problems with novelty and greater efficacy, according to one study found. Poor sleep thwarts our capacity to concentrate and recall data, which could be a liability at work and slims the chances of bringing your A game to the office.
Tip: Adopt a consistent sleep schedule and maintain it, even over the weekend; sleep experts say doing so will help you get better and more shut-eye.
Sleep on it
Whether you’re lifting weights to sculpt your physique or hitting the treadmill to shed some extra pounds, you won’t see the full benefits of your workout without solid slumber. If your goal is the latter, sleep deprivation throws off the hormones that regulate your satiety (leptin) and hunger (ghrelin), resulting in a ravenous appetite you’ll likely overindulge. For individuals striving toward improved fitness, sleep repairs and rebuilds the muscles you break down while exercising, ensuring increased strength and stamina.
Tip: Meditate between sets. Close your eyes and take several diaphragmatic breaths, focusing on your inhale and exhale. Research shows that mindful meditation helps manage insomnia, improve sleep wellness and eases anxiety, depression and pain.