“Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.” There may be more wisdom in that adage than we can comprehend. Current research confirms the importance of sleep in maintaining an emotionally and physically healthy life, as well as building “mental muscle”
Sleep is an excellent stress reducer. Quite often, people overwhelmed by conflict or high tension situations find that a good night’s rest can do much to adjust their outlook and enable them to rationally determine a solution to their problem. Ironically, a lack of sleep is often the contributing factor to discord, as tired people are generally more irritable and easily annoyed than their well-rested counterparts. A good night’s sleep may help stop a conflict before it even starts.
Individuals who suffer from extreme forms of mental illness cannot ignore the importance of sleep, either. Anxiety and depression are often magnified when a person is lacking adequate sleep; the result is even more profound when several nights go by without truly resting. Some researchers are beginning to speculate that insomnia itself may be the cause of many mental illnesses, rather than a symptom of the disease. No matter which may be the case, it is important to realize that a good night’s sleep can help temper the negative side effects associated with mental instability.
A person wishing to improve his concentration or increase his ability to memorize and maintain facts can benefit from a full night of slumber, as well. We may shut down for the night, but apparently our bodies do not. Experts believe that the time devoted to sleep actually helps to sort out and cement certain elements into our minds—whether it is the difficult math problem a student struggled with during calculus, or the presentation the business manager spent the day committing to memory. Practice drills that were repeated over and over again through the day may finally implant themselves in an individual’s mind, after a good night’s sleep.
People who want to stay healthy and physically active need to consider the importance of sleep also. Research has shown that sleep can help the body stay strong and resist disease; sleep deprivation, naturally, can hinder the body’s ability to fight off infection. A tired body is less resistant and on guard. A tired mind is also less aware of potential danger; accidents, with the potential to physically impair, often occur due to tiredness or lethargy. In addition, many diseases are associated with poor sleep quality, including heart disease, obesity and diabetes. Studies have shown that people who sleep less tend to gain more weight over a period of time than their associates with adequate amounts of rest. Healthy sleep habits also contribute to a healthy appearance—rested people look more energized and have a healthy tint to their skin; sleep deprived people often look tired and frazzled and washed out.
No doubt future research will only confirm the importance of sleep to a healthy, well-balanced life.