“Well, someone got out of the wrong side of bed this morning!” We’ve all had that phrase directed at us at some point in our lives. At least, if we’re human we have.
A lack of sleep can make you drowsy and…well…tired, obviously. But it can also make you grumpy, irritable and prone to mood swings. Plus it can lead to more serious physical conditions like diabetes and heart disease, or chronic mental illnesses, like anxiety or depression.
When we don’t sleep enough, everything just feels a bit worse. Because we’ve been up half the night, taking out our frustrations on that new cushion we bought or – if they’re unlucky enough to be in the line of fire – on our partner.
Come morning, we lash out at those around us and this can affect our relationships, our work lives, our family – everything.
So conversely, can more sleep actually improve your life and even perhaps make you a better person? Well yes, it seems it can. Here’s why:
1. Sleep helps us to learn
A well-rested brain is more able to process new information and to retain this information. This is because it has a higher capacity for making new neural connections, to recognize patterns, and to recall information. So not only is our pattern for learning increased – people’s names, life lessons, etc. – we’ll also remember what we’ve learned.
So having a good snooze, even if it’s just a daytime nap, can help us to discover new things, learn from mistakes and basically make us more curious, interesting people. Yay!
2. Sleep makes us more productive
It’s the run-up to Christmas, you’ve a million family functions on, things to cook, presents to buy…but you just don’t have the energy. Of course, this could be because you’ve burnt yourself out with all the running around; or it could be that you simply haven’t been sleeping well. Whether it’s the excitement or – more than likely – the festive late nights, sleep is waaay down your list of priorities right now.
And because of that, you can’t seem to get anything done.
The same goes for a day at the office after a poor night’s sleep. Why is it that some days we’re work machines, flying through emails and wowing at meetings so effortlessly? When today we can barely focus enough to recall our log-in details?!
It’s a lack of sleep, dummy! With a foggier brain, you’re likely to lose concentration, to have a poor attention span and to find motivation next to impossible. Conversely, when your mind is rested, the crew that operates your brain will be enthusiastic, eager and excited about getting those wheels turning.
3. Sleep supports self-control and decision-making
Sleep deprivation has a further impact on cognitive ability – it can lead us to making poor decisions, or unable to make decisions in the first place. Why? Well, the stress it causes to the brain drains our energy reserves. This in turn depletes our mental power to make complex decisions…and ethical decisions, too.
Yes, that’s right – a lack of sleep can lead to us making all sorts of bad choices, whether it’s the food we eat, the things we say or the organizations we support. Our self-control and our inhibitions are lowered and we’re less in control of doing what’s right. Whereas good-quality sleep enables us to assess a situation, to put more thought into our choices and to identify potential consequences. There’s a reason why people decide to ‘sleep on it’, after all; they’re not just being lazy.
So more decisive, more ethical and more thoughtful? Sounds like a better person to me!
4. Sleep makes you healthier
Good-quality sleep supports a healthy immune system, digestive system and cardiovascular system. It can improve circulation, aid with weight loss, boost your libido…really, the physical benefits are endless.
And although beauty is on the inside, blah blah blah, it’s comforting to know that sleep improves how you look on the outside, too! You can say bye bye to baggy under-eyes, pallid complexions and puffy cheeks – and say hello to bright eyes, clear skin and a radiant glow! They call it beauty sleep for a reason, you know.
Once you feel stronger inside and out, this can do wonders for your self-esteem. And as a more confident, healthy person, you’re less likely to suffer from the stress and anxiety that can lead to depression. Instead, you’ll be a more relaxed and happier person; the best version of ‘you’ that you can be.
So if sleep can make us better learners, more productive, ethical, thoughtful, healthier and happier, can it make us better people? Sounds like it can, yeah!
Because these new sleep-enhanced specimens are suddenly in a better mood, nurturing their relationships, motivated in their careers and contributing to the world in a better way. I think it may be time for a nap…