Sleep's relation to wellbeing

January 12, 2014

Want to be healthier and happier? - scientists say a sound night’s sleep is top priority. Better sleep equals less stress and illness, according to new sleep studies

 

Sleep is more than a luxury commodity reserved for holidays and weekends. Despite often priding ourselves on how little we require, regular, restorative sleep is an essential part of our everyday wellbeing. However, it’s sometimes hard to cultivate healthy sleep habits in a world where working hours and modern technology are steadily on the rise.

 

If you’re sleeping badly, you’re certainly not alone. In the recent 2013 Rx Sleep Survey, 83% of Americans polled said they ‘don’t get a good night’s sleep on a consistent basis’. So what’s really happening as a result of all this sleeplessness? Aside from the obvious effects on our productivity, moods and energy levels, the latest studies hint at a wider problem. Getting less or poor quality sleep may also encourage illness, make us less content and worse at coping with stress.

 

As well as leaving us constantly fatigued, researchers believe skimping on sleep could compromise our long-term health and happiness too.

 

In a recent study by the Surrey Sleep Research Centre, 26 healthy volunteers slept for less than six hours a night for one week. At the end of the trial, researchers discovered substantial disruptions to the volunteers’ genetic responses to fighting infection, coping with stress and regulating metabolism. Surprisingly, even this short spell of decreased sleep interrupted the genes that determine how well, or unwell, we feel.

 

And it’s not just physical wellbeing that’s affected. In three new studies carried out at the University of California, Berkeley, researchers explored the links between sleeplessness and being emotionally content. Overwhelmingly, when interviewed about what they felt grateful for in life, volunteers with bad sleep habits showed less gratitude and appreciation than those who slept more soundly.

 

We’ve always known that a good night’s rest can make us feel amazing, but it’s not until this new research that we fully understood why. Certainly, there’s still more to learn about the function of sleep and how it affects us, but one thing seems clear, being smarter sleepers can only help improve our sense of happiness, wellbeing and quality of life.