We need sleep to be healthier, happier, and better people. Various studies have been dedicated to exploring the benefits a good night’s sleep can give people, as well as the detrimental long-term effects of sleep deprivation. Improved memory, better critical thinking abilities, increased creativity, better collagen production, and an enhanced immune system—these are the popular benefits you reap as an early sleeper.
But there are unexpected ways sleep could make you a better person in the long run. These five studies show us the beauty of sleep: when the going gets tough, maybe the solution doesn’t depend on exertion and force, but simply closing your eyes, taking a deep breath, and letting yourself rest.
“Work hard, play harder”—this mantra is thrown around by businessmen and executives, constantly barking at their phones or answering emails. But it’s not exclusive to corporate big shots—college students, artists, even moms: just about anyone who has had to sacrifice hours of sleep for work.
It makes you wonder how anyone has time for sleep with just 24 hours in a day. But hey—we lose this sleep to do more work, and doing more work means earning more money! But this isn’t actually the case.
Researchers from the University of California-San Diego found that people earn more money in areas where sunsets happen earlier, resulting in earlier bedtimes for workers in those areas. This added hour of sleep increased earnings by 1.5%, accumulating to a whooping 4.9% overall. Meanwhile, areas where the sun lingers longer reduces sleep, affecting worker efficiency, productivity, and wages. An hour of delayed sunset resulted in wages decreasing by 0.5%.
The Solution: One researcher suggested staying right where you are and investing in material that promotes a conducive sleeping environment, such as better curtains to tune out the light.
Your best album of sultry jazz is on. Your room is dark, lit only by scented candles placed here and there. Both of you have had at least two glasses of wine, but it still doesn’t feel quite right. The romance is still alive but you’re also aware that, again, tonight isn’t the night. Does mean the end of your relationship? Not quite.
A recent study conducted by the North American Menopause Society (NAMS) asserts that there is a significant relationship between time spent in the bed sleeping and sexually prowess: clocking in more hours of rest increases sexual satisfaction. The older a woman gets, the harder it is to get the right amount of sleep, which can significantly decrease the quality of her sexual experience. After adjusting other variables that may affect sexual satisfaction, scientists found that not much had changed, up until they made sure the participants got a good night’s of sleep.
It goes both ways: Scientists from the University of Chicago Medical Center concluded that men who get less than five hours of sleep for an extended amount of time suffer lower testosterone levels. Conducted on healthy male adults ages 24 and above, researchers found out that men who get less sleep end up with testosterone levels similar to that of boys between the ages of 10 to 15, resulting in much inferior performance.
The Solution: Ockham’s razor: simply sleep on it. When you and your partner are feeling out of it, the best solution is to catch the extra Zs you’ve been missing. Let your body recuperate for a while, and sleep for no less than 8 hours. That should reward both of you with enough power to get things up and running again.
It’s one thing to be a good employee, and it’s another thing to be a good employee who genuinely likes work. If only the money-making business didn’t include bouts of stress, more people would probably clock in more hours at work. It doesn’t really help that the workplace is the last thing people associate with a stress-free paradise.
It is well-known that getting less slumber time makes workers feel lethargic, but an investigation published in the journal Sleep finally explains to what extent. While stress is an inevitable element in the workplace, people who get less sleep than their peers perceive stress more negatively, affecting the way they react to otherwise commonplace amounts of stress, scientists suggest.
This doesn’t mean the end for the corporate world. While it is nearly impossible for adults to get all 7 to 8 hours of sleep, the study reminds us that there are other ways to reach the ideal amount of rest through accumulation without cutting your work hours in half: napping. Through napping, the participants in the study reported a significant increase in their fondness for work, which also improved the quality of their jobs.
The Solution: Even if your workplace doesn’t encourage naps, there are other ways to get time off the screen. A good way to measure how much you’ve done, and how much rest you need, is through the Pomodoro technique. It’s a time management technique that balances active time and rest time.
Set your alarm to one “Pomodoro” that is equivalent to 25 minutes and work on a task. When the timer goes off, take five minutes off, then get back at it again. After four “pomodoros” get a rest period of ten minutes. Repeat until you finish the task.
Pain is one of the last things we would associate with sleep, but it turns out the relationship isn’t so far-fetched. Researchers at the University of Warwick show that people who suffer from chronic pain feel significantly less pain after a good night’s rest than those who stayed up worrying about the pain they would feel.
One of the researchers suggest: "Current psychological treatments for chronic pain have mostly focused on pain management and a lesser emphasis on sleep but there is a recent interest in developing therapies to tackle both pain and sleep problems simultaneously. This scale provides a useful clinical tool to assess and monitor treatment progress during these therapies."
Instead of worrying about the pain, leading to insomnia and heightened discomfort, this revolutionary study will help people perceive pain and sleep differently, and will encourage patients of various chronic pains to be more welcoming of slumber.
The solution: Various studies have asserted that your mattress can actually affect your quality of sleep. Hit two birds with one stone by getting a mattress that can alleviate your pain and promote better sleep. Various companies have been investing in making mattresses truly revolutionary.
As James Cox, founder of Simba Sleep—perhaps the most advanced mattress of choice for ideal sleep—states, “The mattress market was one of the last venues that hadn’t seen any change”, which pushed him to start a company that engineers mattresses that use unique springs which hug a person’s body perfectly. Every mattress is equipped with material that will make it uniquely shaped for each individual—you’ll never find a mattress better fitted for you than Simba Sleep.
We usually think that willpower is an invisible fountain we have flowing inside of us. Science seems to support the idea that self-control and willpower are internal operations that depend entirely on a person’s psychological well-being. It’s like a switch that we can ultimately turn on and off at will, with nothing but pure mental strength.
But a study from Clemson University shows that there is compelling proof that willpower and self-control are also determined by a person’s physiological well-being. They show this example through driving.
As you go down the freeway, your tired body and your brain know that when you fall asleep, the chances of you crashing against a ten-wheeler truck is at the back of your mind, and this prevents you from falling asleep on the wheel. But a person can only do so much to stay awake. The desire for sleep becomes stronger than survival, resulting in a decrease in willpower.
The Solution: Set an alarm for bed. We usually associate willpower with powering through work until everything is done, but now we know this is not the right way to go. As the day closes to an end, your productivity depletes, resulting in poorer performance.
Set a realistic bedtime that you can follow daily for you to have a renewed sense of willpower the next day. Who knows—with the right amount of sleep, your next waking moment might be the day you take on the world.