Hive Health Media

Get Wealthier by Sleeping More?

sleep deprivation humorTo his teachers, 16-year-old Billy, is the student most likely to fall asleep in class.  After all, his school day is followed by a grueling basketball practice then three hours behind a fast food counter.  Following that, there’s homework, late night phone chats with his girlfriend, and catching up on MTV.  When Billy’s head finally hits the pillow, his mind is still racing with thoughts about everything from tomorrow’s history test to the latest outbreak of zits.  Then, just when it seems like he’s finally settled into a cozy sleep, his alarm clock rings, and it’s time to do it all over again. Sound vaguely familiar?

Billy’s case is not unusual.  Almost all of us can relate to the busy, no time for sleep schedule that has become the norm in society, but few of us realize that healthy sleep is one of the key ingredients to a happy, healthy life.  Webster’s Dictionary defines sleep as:

“that well known state in which there is a suspension in the voluntary exercise of the powers of the body and mind, and which is periodically necessary to bodily health.”

Sleep is necessary to bodily health, even ol’ Webster knows that.  Everyone knows that, it’s nothing new.  But sleep still seems to be taken for granted.  Everyone sleeps.  But hardly anyone knows the importance of sleep, the functions of sleep, and the effects that not enough sleep has on a person.

The importance of sleep should be obvious; you don’t sleep, you don’t live.  Everyone knows that sleep is crucial to existence.  The keyword is existence.  The average American goes through life existing.  But an adult that actually gets enough sleep will not just exist, but also thrive.

What happens when you don’t get enough sleep?

On average, adults require between 7-9 hours of sleep per night.  For those who’re over the age of 60, six hours is adequate, since we actually require less sleep as we age.  Not getting enough zzz’z may lead to a multitude of things.  Reduced energy levels, irritability, disorientation, dark circles under the eyes, and fatigue are just a few.  The body’s immune system also suffers from a lack of sleep.  A person with inadequate sleep is more likely to catch colds, and the flu.  But that’s not all, an estimated 200,000 auto accidents a year are caused by sleepy drivers.

If falling asleep at the wheel or being just plain drowsy and possibly killing you and someone else isn’t enough, then there is an advantage to getting enough shuteye financially too.  Sleep deprivation costs Americans more than $100 billion annually in lost productivity, medical expenses, sick leave, and property and environmental damage.  Which means the person that takes time to sleep is better off financially.  The importance of sleep is clearly shown.  Not enough sleep equals grumpy, sick, dead or injured, and financially disabled people.

Furthermore, the functions of sleep are also something that is overlooked by the general population.  Contrary to popular opinion, the function of sleep is not to prevent sleepiness any more than the function of eating is to prevent hunger.  The functions of sleep, in spite of a century of scientific study, remains a biological mystery.  Scientists do have theories to the functions of sleep however.

Theories about why we need sleep?

The first theory involves the importance of Restoration and Recovery.  This hypothesis is that sleep serves to reverse and/or restore biochemical and physiological processes that are progressively degraded during prior wakefulness.  This theory is the most popular or the most widely accepted.  There are elements that don’t go parallel with this theory though.  One is physically fit individuals do not have longer sleep durations than the unfit.  According to this theory, however, someone who exercised regularly would need more Restoration and Recovery sleep than someone who didn’t exercise, which isn’t true.

Editor’s note:  I disagree with Sam about his suggestion that athletes or those who exercise regularly not need more sleep.  Research often suggests that more sleep can improve athletic performance.

The second theory is Energy Conservation.  According to this theory, sleep serves to reduce metabolic or fat burning rates while asleep.  Or in other words, sleep conserves energy –fat- which makes individuals able to perform their daily tasks.  Although scientist aren’t completely sure which theory is correct, they do know that functions such as brain growth, consolidation of memory, removal of non relevant memories, and discharges of emotions, do occur while asleep. Although the scientific functions of sleep are not apparent, the physical ones are, without sleep one cannot survive.

Also, the effects on a person without enough sleep can be astronomical. Lost sleep adds up.  Experts say loss of sleep is cumulative, creating a sleep debt.  One hour of sleep loss every night for a week is the equivalent of staying up for an all-nighter.  That all-nighter of lost sleep can cause a serious auto accident.  In fact, over 200,000 sleep deprived related accidents occur a year.  That all-nighter can also cost an individual massive amounts of money in lost productivity, medical expenses, sick leaves, and property and environmental damages.  But worst of all, that all-nighter can also be devastating to one’s health.

Research suggests that inadequate sleep can have serious long-term effects:

It is estimated that 50 to 70 million Americans chronically suffer from a disorder of sleep and wakefulness, hindering daily functioning and adversely affecting health and longevity. The cumulative long-term effects of sleep deprivation and sleep disorders have been associated with a wide range of deleterious health consequences including an increased risk of hypertension, diabetes, obesity, depression, heart attack, and stroke.

There are also short-term effects that will occur after a night without enough sleep.  Some of these include; reduced energy levels, irritability, cognitive decline, disorientation, dark circles under the eyes, and fatigue to name a few.  Growth hormone release also declines during periods of inadequate sleep. No matter if the effects are short or long term, not getting enough sleep can mean not living life to the fullest.

Key Points:

  • Adequate sleep is essential for maintaining a healthy mind and body.
  • Ensure that you regularly get enough sleep to maintain your health, drive safely and for your ultimate financial well-being too.
Sam is a certified personal trainer in Utah, online fitness coach, self-proclaimed health fanatic, amateur bodybuilder, Jiu Jitsu enthusiast, self-development junkie, marketing hobbyist, entrepreneur, and all around cool dude. He has published many articles on various topics around health, fitness, and has a personal development blog.

11 Comments

  1. Susan Weaver @ Mahogany Sleigh Bed

    October 31, 2010 at 10:40 pm

    Many people claim to be able to live perfectly with only a few hours of sleep every night, but that probably isn’t the healthiest option for our bodies, unless each person has different needs. The good thing about sleeping habits is that they can be easily changed, so those that don’t sleep as much as they should can quickly reverse that situation. I do agree that sleeping well is very important.

  2. Slava

    September 23, 2010 at 12:11 am

    Thanks for the article. I had personally learned the importance of sleep a few years back, when I was self-employed. You stay awake for 18-24 hours in a row and you just can’t concentrate. You’re like floating around without clear mind. You drop on to a pillow and wake up just 8 hours later (which seem more like 5 seconds) and you’re completely different person.

  3. Project Swole

    September 22, 2010 at 1:20 pm

    I’ve found that it gets easier to function on 6 hours of sleep, the longer I try to do it. Once I had a job that required me to get up by 4:30-5 am every morning, but I typically went to bed around 1 am or midnight. It was tough at first, but eventually I could function really well going to be around 11 pm. I often slept in on weekends though.

    I optimally need about 8 hours, but function pretty well on 6. Anything less than 5 hours means I’m probably going to have a long day, and I’ll end up popping at least 1, maybe 2 Biotest Hot Rox Extreme ‘energy pills’.

    What are your thoughts on catching up on missed sleep? I mentioned sleeping in on weekends, but I think I’ve read before that you can’t ‘catch up’ on missed sleep. Maybe it’s just that sleeping for 9 hours on Friday/Saturday feels like catching up, but in reality I would sleep that long every night if it were possible. Thoughts?

  4. Sam

    September 22, 2010 at 12:05 pm

    I’m one of those people that requires more sleep. I have a roomate that runs off of 5 hours and he doesn’t ‘get it’ that it isn’t sufficient for me. I do not function, my brain does not function, without at least 7 hours; ideally 9.

    My question, and something I can’t seem to find out answers to, is whether or not there is a conditioning factor to the amount of sleep you need. For example, would it be possible to condition your body to only need 5 hours by gutting it out and forcing yourself to do a month straight with only 5 hours. Would that reprogram your bodies requirements? Would you adjust?

    OR, it is purely genetic? Nature or nurture?

    • Jarret Morrow

      September 22, 2010 at 1:16 pm

      Sam, I’m not up to date on that type of research, but from personal experience, I suspect not. My medical school colleague claimed he trained himself doing the very thing that you described. That being said, a few of us tried it and it didn’t work for us.

      Back in medical school, the idea having of an extra three or fours in my day was appealing.

  5. Jill

    September 22, 2010 at 10:41 am

    Sleep deprivation has been used though out history as a form of torture, and I would never torture myself. I loooove my sleep, and do get enough. So you’re telling me my dark circles may be due to (gasp) aging??

    • Jarret Morrow

      September 22, 2010 at 11:51 am

      Jill, For some people, there’s certainly a genetic component to dark circles. As well, they’re also called “allergic shiners” since they can be accentuated in those who have allergies. For me, I’ve heard, “You look tired” for years now, lol. I have always had them, but they definitely get far worse when I’m sleep deprived.

  6. Deb

    September 22, 2010 at 9:20 am

    I know from personal experience that getting adequate sleep is essential. When my alarm goes off in the morning and I’ve had enough sleep, I feel ready and eager to get going; when I haven’t had enough, I have to drag myself out of bed and feel generally crummy all day!

    • Jarret Morrow

      September 22, 2010 at 11:48 am

      Deb, I’m with you there. Is there anything that we all hate more than the sound of the alarm clock on those days when we haven’t had enough sleep?

  7. [email protected]

    September 22, 2010 at 9:10 am

    Interesting topic. I have never needed a lot of sleep. Probably just as well as when I was nursing; the schedules we had on some shifts you couldn’t get more than 5-6 hours sleep before being on duty again! The good old days eh??!!
    Also, Maggie Thatcher, one time Prime Minister of Great Britain used to survive on very little sleep and still hold down that important job.
    I have friends who need lots of sleep which when I was younger I couldn’t understand till one day this particular friend had stayed at my home and I saw the dark brown circles under their eyes from not enough sleep. I was shocked as I didn’t need as much so just thought everyone was the same. I have since learned that is not the case.
    Patricia Perth Australia

    • Jarret Morrow

      September 22, 2010 at 11:47 am

      Patricia, there’s certainly some variability in how much sleep we all need. During medical school, one of my classmates swore that he only needed 4 or 5 hours per night. For me, I would feel pretty miserable with four or five hours.

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