The lifestyle changes that need to be made in order to invest in sleep health can mean a lot of work and sometimes the changing of lifelong habits. This can be extremely discouraging. However, these changes can really pay off in a big way. The top three reasons for improving sleep include better physical health, better mental/emotional health, and improved work productivity.
Better Physical Health
Adequate sleep can have a number of physical benefits, some of which may come as a surprise. According to the Health website, getting needed sleep can have benefits like reducing inflammation and enhancing athletic performance and stamina.
On the flip side, Johns Hopkins has developed an infographic on the physical dangers of failing to get enough sleep. These dangers include an increased risk of weight gain (due to the fact that inadequate sleep can impact appetite hormones like leptin and ghrelin). Lack of sleep can also lead to a three times greater risk for Type 2 diabetes and a 48% greater risk for developing heart disease.
It is also important to note that according to The Sleep Foundation, adequate sleep is part of optimal health no matter what a person's age and that it is, in fact, important throughout the course of a lifetime.
Better Mental/Emotional Health
The Mayo Clinic also notes that getting enough sleep doesn't just improve things physically: it also helps improve mental and emotional health. Everyday life is full of stressors, from job stress to financial worries to problems with family relationships. When the body is asleep, however, the mind is able to process the experiences of the day, mostly during the rapid eye movement (REM) stage of sleep. If REM sleep is inadequate, this data processing becomes more difficult and the result can be less concentration/focus, memory issues, and difficulty with mood regulation. This is why a person who has had a bad night's sleep can be cranky or irritable the next day.
According to the Harvard Medical School site, there is a strong link between sleep deprivation and mental health disorders: 50-80% of psychiatric patients have sleep problems, compared to only 10-18% of the general population; the site also notes that sleep issues are a particular challenge for those with mental health issues like anxiety, bipolar disorder, depression, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
Increased Work Productivity
Getting a good night's sleep is necessary for doing well at work. However, Quietness Me notes that the American society sometimes puts pressure to on people to sacrifice their personal lives for their professional ones. One form of this is sacrificing sleep in order to be more productive at work. The Quietness Me website goes on to suggest that ironically, sleep deprivation has just the opposite effect: the more profound the sleep deprivation, the less productive someone becomes. This is because the brain needs glucose to function, but sleep deprivation lowers the levels of this much needed energy source.
According to the RAND Health Quarterly, sleep deprivation has a negative impact not only on the individual worker, but on society as a whole. Authors cite a 2014 study by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention which found that more than one-third of American adults regularly get inadequate sleep; this finding prompted the CDC to declare insufficient sleep a “public health problem." The journal estimates that the financial cost of sleep deprivation to the US economy amounted to approximately $411 billion annually; this estimate included the cost of missed days of work, lost wages, and decreased productivity.
In short, lifestyle changes required to improve sleep hygiene can be incredibly difficult and frustrating. However, the rewards (including better mental and physical health as well as an increase in job performance) can make the effort more than worth it.