Want to Get Things Done? Stay in Bed.
Sleep and Memory
When we interact with the world fresh and rested, we can more readily make sense of the sensory input we encounter. But it doesn’t stop there. The National Sleep Foundation explains, “Sleep actually triggers changes in the brain that solidify memories—strengthening connections between brain cells and transferring information from one brain region to another.” Okay, we need sleep to retain information. Looking at you, college kids. You won’t have to stay up for a week straight cramming for finals if you could just get to bed a little earlier!
Sleep, Attention, and Focus
We have all experienced it. When we’re tired, we have a hard time focusing. The mind wanders, and information is in one ear and out the other, as they say. A Harvard Medical School article illustrates what is happening…
When we are sleep deprived, our focus, attention, and vigilance drift, making it more difficult to receive information. Without adequate sleep and rest, over-worked neurons can no longer function to coordinate information properly, and we lose our ability to access previously learned information. In addition, our interpretation of events may be affected. We lose our ability to make sound decisions because we can no longer accurately assess the situation, plan accordingly, and choose the correct behavior. Judgment becomes impaired. –“Sleep, Learning and Memory,” Healthy Sleep, Division of Sleep Medicine, Harvard Medical School
Sleep and Inflammation
Long-term sleep deficit messes with the balance between pro-inflammatory cytokines and anti-inflammatory cytokines which may not make the inflammatory response as precise as it should be. Arthritis, digestive problems, cancer and even depression and anxiety have been associated with chronic inflammation. These health issues, whether mild or severe, would slow down even the most determined workhorse.
Sleep to Keep Colds Away
In one study, participants who consistently slept less than seven hours every night were almost three times more likely to contract a cold than participants who slept eight hours or more. Yep, researchers measured baselines, exposed the participants to rhinovirus, then checked them for clinical symptoms of a cold every day for five days. Good sports, weren’t they? So, the five hour club might get an extra hour or two of work done each day, but with reduced cognition, brain fog, and time off for illness, are they really getting as much productivity out of an hour as their eight-hour counterparts? Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to hit the sack nice and early tonight! Because, you know, I wouldn’t want to be a bum.