Three reasons we all need to sleep more

Arianna Huffington regularly advocates for the importance of getting a good night’s sleep. After collapsing in her office from exhaustion and lack of sleep in 2007, she became a self-proclaimed ‘sleep evangelist’.

In this article you will learn:

  • Why sleep is important for physical health
  • The impact of not getting enough sleep
  • How sleep can help you to achieve more

After writing in her book, Thrive, about her wake-up call, she found that the subject people wanted to discuss with her the most was sleep, which led to her writing another book – The Sleep Revolution – to find out more about the importance of sleep and what science has to say about getting some shuteye.

Here are three reasons she found that we all need to sleep more:

1. Brain health

Huffington says that it’s been long known and accepted that sleep is important to our brain health but recent research has unveiled some interesting things from that relationship. She explains: “For centuries, especially since the Industrial Revolution, it was assumed that the sleeping brain was simply resting, that it was the opposite to our active, alert daytime brain. It turns out that the sleeping brain is feverishly busy, and the work that’s being done is as important as anything being done during the daytime. For example, it is during sleep that our brain clears toxic waste proteins – the kind associated with Alzheimer’s disease.”

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2. Physical ability

Getting a good night’s sleep might not be something that we associate with the world’s most famous sporting stars – the likes of Usain Bolt are well-known for their partying habits – but it could actually be the answer to improved performance on the field.

“It’s no longer a secret that sleep is the ultimate – side-effect-free – performance enhancer,” Huffington says. “In fact, the elite sports world is helping to demolish our collective delusion that sleep deprivation is the macho, tough, disciplined way to live your life if you want to win. It’s exciting to see more and more world class athletes coming out of the burnout closer to talk openly about how embracing sleep helps them win on the court and in the field.”

Golden State Warriors player Andre Igoudala is one of these – when he first started playing professionally, he would stay up late watching TV and get up early to go to the gym. But when he started to take his relationship with sleep seriously after seeing a sleep specialist, he was a better player. His playing time increased by 12 per cent, his three-point shot percentage more than doubled, his points per minute went up 29 per cent, his free-throw percentage increased by 8.9 per cent, and his turnovers went down 37 per cent. You can’t argue with the statistics.

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3. Weight

“Our culture is obsessed with weight and of course weight can be a serious health issue, implicated in a vast array of diseases,” Huffington says. “But seldom mentioned in the discussion is sleep. We think of weight mostly in terms of eating, and therefore mostly in terms of what happens while we’re awake. But our weight is intimately connected to our sleep.”

According to a Mayo Clinic study, people who get only six hours of sleep per night are 23 per cent more likely to be overweight – and for those getting less than four hours sleep, the likelihood of being overweight increases to 73 per cent.

Huffington adds: “In other words, if you want to gain weight, just cut back on your sleep.”

Read more from Arianna Huffington on sleep in her full article for Virgin.com.

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