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Top Reasons to Get a Good Night's Sleep

How Sleep Improves Memory, Reduces Stress and Enhances Decision-Making

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When was the last time you found yourself drifting off in the middle of a long class lecture or meeting? According to the National Sleep Foundation's 2008 "Sleep in America" poll, 29% of participants reported becoming very sleepy or even falling asleep at work in the previous month alone.

Recent research has linked lack of sleep to a wide range of ailments, including memory problems and obesity. Learn more about some of the top reasons why you should get a good night's sleep.

Sleep May Help You Learn More Effectively

Girl looking at notebook
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Researchers have long believed that sleep plays an important role in memory, but recent evidence suggests that getting a good night's sleep can improve learning. In one study, researchers found that depriving students of sleep after learning a new skill significantly decreased memory of that skill up to three days later (Winerman, 2006). Known as the memory consolidation theory of sleep, this notion proposes that sleep serves to process and retain information learned earlier while awake. While there is research both for and against the theory, many studies have shown that sleep can play an important role in certain types of memory.

Research Suggests Sleep Deprivation May Contribute to Obesity

In addition to affecting memory and learning, lack of sleep has been linked to body weight. In one 2005 study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, overweight participants were found to sleep less than participants of a normal weight (Vorona et al., 2005). Brandon Peters, About.com's Guide to Sleep Disorders, reports that poor sleep at age 30 months can predict obesity at age seven. While researchers do not yet understand exactly how sleep disruption impacts appetite and metabolism, getting a good night's sleep certainly can't hurt your weight loss or weight maintenance efforts.

Sleep is Important for Managing Stress

Sleep can help you deal with stress
ana balzic
According to many experts, most people need between seven and eight hours of sleep each night. What happens when you don't get enough sleep? Symptoms such as moodiness, anxiety, aggression and increased stress levels can result. About.com's Guide to Stress Management, Elizabeth Scott, suggests taking "power naps" to combat drowsiness, reduce stress and increase productivity. While sleeping more certainly won't eliminate all stress, it can help increase your readiness to cope with the stress of day-to-day life.

Sleep Can Help You Make Better Decisions

Sleep and decision making
Steve Woods
Have you ever found yourself struggling to make relatively simple decisions after a night of poor sleep? In addition to reducing such things as response time and accuracy, lack of sleep has also been linked to difficulty making good decisions. In one study published in the journal Sleep, researchers found that sleepiness has a serious impact on the ability to make effective decisions (Roehrs, 2004). Another study suggested that sleep impairs decision-making when gambling by increasing expectations of potential gains while minimizing losses. If you're facing a challenging decision, make sure that you are well rested so that you will be at your best.

References

American Academy of Sleep Medicine (2007, May 5). Sleep Deprivation Can Threaten Competent Decision-making. ScienceDaily. National Sleep Foundation. (2008). Longer Work Days Leave Americans Nodding Off On the Job.

Peters, B. (2008). Why so fat and tired?

Roehrs, T., Greenwald, M., Roth T. (2004). Risk-taking behavior: effects of ethanol, caffeine, and basal sleepiness. Sleep, 27(5), 887-93.

Vorona, R. et al. (2005, Jan. 10). Overweight and Obese Patients in a Primary Care Population Report Less Sleep Than Patients With a Normal Body Mass Index. Archives of Internal Medicine, 165, 25-30.

Winerman, L. (2006). Let's sleep on it: A good night's sleep may be the key to effective learning, says recent research. Monitor on Psychology.

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