light night skyIs it really that important to get 7-8 hours of sleep? I mean, is that just something people say because it sounds like a nice thing to do, or does it really make a difference? Let’s start with the basics. You feel better after a good night’s rest, right? You are probably moodier if you don’t sleep well, and you are less able to focus. I know that I am certainly more grumpy and less patient if I have not slept well the previous night. I might be able to hide my grumpiness, but it takes a lot of energy to do that which means I have less energy for other things.
Other than just making us less moody and more alert, let’s look at some specific things sleep does for us.
1. Sleep helps your brain prepare to learn new things, and then it helps your brain store what you have learned so that you can recall and use it. For example, if you are in school, or learning a new job, when you sleep your brain is getting primed to learn new information the next day. Then, after you learn the new information, when you sleep that night your brain is busily processing and filing the information so that you can remember it when you need to. That could be helpful for passing a test, or getting the promotion you want, don’t you think?
2. Sleep is good for your heart. When we sleep, our body takes that time to heal our heart and blood vessels. Not getting enough sleep has been linked to high blood pressure, stroke and heart disease. Since we are dependent on our heart to live an active and healthy life, it might be a good idea to do everything we can to keep it healthy, which includes getting enough sleep.
3. There are several ways in which sleep helps us with appetite and weight management. Sleep deprivation has been linked to obesity, so if you are concerned about being overweight, getting enough sleep needs to be part of your daily practice. Sleep also helps balance our hormones that regulate our appetite. Lack of sleep might make you feel hungrier during the day because your hormones have not had a chance to regulate themselves.
4. If you want to make better decisions, get enough sleep. Making good decisions is a critical part of achieving your goals. Who do you think gets into the better college, the person who makes bad decisions or the person who makes good decisions? Who do you think does a better job at saving money for a car or home of their dreams – the person who makes bad decisions or the person who makes good decisions? And who do you think has a better relationship with their partner – yep, I’m guessing the person who is able to make better decision. Research shows that sleep helps you process and organize information, enabling you to make better decision.
I kind of like the idea of being able to think better, being at a healthy weight, not having a heart attack and being able to learn new stuff. Those things all sound appealing in my quest to live a healthy and happy life, what about you? Do you like the idea of spending your days with plenty of energy, being able to think clearly, and achieving the goals that are important to you? If your answer is yes, it sounds like getting enough sleep might be more than just a nice idea, it is critical to getting what you want. If you are having trouble sleeping, stay tuned for part 2 for some helpful tips.

Gwen Bartran, MA, LPCC