There are two types of people: those who understandably enjoy their time in bed and the crazies who pop up at the crack of dawn ready for the day. I get it—getting up early allows time for a more productive day and makes you feel good inside. My counter argument? Sleeping as much as possible makes for a well-rested individual and therefore a more productive day and makes me feel good inside! But hey, to each their own. All I’m saying is sleep might be more important than we think.

Most of us are aware that lack of sleep takes a serious toll on our physical health—it leaves us feeling groggy and unmotivated to move, and can also contribute to heart disease, diabetes, stroke, and other conditions. But growing evidence suggests it’s also a big threat to our mental health. According to a recent studied published in the journal Cognitive Therapy and Research, sleep deprivation causes people to lose some of their ability to think positively. The big red flag? The inability to think positively is a serious sign of depression and could be very dangerous is it not addressed.

“[People] tend to focus on positive things more than anything else, but now we’re seeing that sleep deprivation may reverse that bias,” said Postdoctoral Fellow Ivan Vargas, PhD, leader of the aforementioned study. He and his team administered a computer test to a group of healthy adults—half of which spent 28 consecutive hours awake and half of which got a good eight hours of sleep—which measured their ability to identify happy, sad, and neutral faces. The purpose was to examine how the differing subgroups processed positive and negative information. Vargas and his team found that those in the sleep deprived subgroup were less likely to focus on the happy faces or positive stimuli, relating it back to symptoms of depression.

Talk Stats to Me

While these new findings are certainly concerning for the sleep deprived, are there really that many people to worry about? The answer is yes; there are probably more people out there who are sleep deprived than you think. Let’s look at some stats:

  • More than 1/3 of Americans don’t get enough sleep.
  • Adults reported difficulty concentrating, remembering things, driving, and going to work when they didn’t get sufficient sleep.
  • Adults are recommended to get at least 7 hours of sleep.
  • Teenagers are recommended to get at least 8 hours of sleep.
  • The average adult gets less than 7 hours of sleep a night.
  • An estimated 50-70 million US adults have sleep or wakefulness disorder.

Eating and Sleeping: My Favorite Hobbies

Everybody knows how vital eating is. It’s simple: if we don’t eat, we starve. And I don’t know about you, but after a few hours of not eating I feel like I’m cutting it a little too close. That’s why I always have pizza and potato chips nearby. But it turns out, I’ve been sleeping on the more severe threat: sleep deprivation. Death by starvation actually takes a much longer time than we think—up to even two months, depending on a variety of factors. However, the longest an individual has survived without sleeping is… drumroll: only eleven days! And at the end of those eleven days, the man’s mind and functionality were completely fried. This goes to show just how important sleep is. In fact, it’s essential: it allows our bodies to heal and to engage in other vital functions. So, next time you plan on pulling an all-nighter, it might be smart to reconsider. Skipping out on sleep just isn’t worth it.

Now All I Want to Do Is Sleep, Tell Me How

So, now you understand just how important sleep really is. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy to get a restful 7 or 8 hours, as recommended by the National Sleep Foundation. Here are a few tips to help you get a good amount of quality sleep each night:

  • Make and stick to a sleep schedule. Go to bed at the same time and wake up at the same time, in order to regulate your body’s clock.
  • Practice a relaxing ritual at bedtime. Read a book or the newspaper every night before bed. Pretty soon, this will become a telltale sign to your body that it’s time for bed.
  • Break a sweat. Make it a necessity to workout every single day. This will make you more tired at night.
  • Design your sleep environment. Your room should be set to a cool temperature and also free of any noise or light that may disturb your sleep.
  • Ensure you’re comfortable. If your mattress or pillows are uncomfortable, you’ll have a harder time falling and staying asleep. So don’t be afraid to splurge on some new ones and invest in your future of sleep.

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Taylor Bennett

Taylor Bennett

Taylor Bennett is the Content Development Manager at Thriveworks. She devotes herself to distributing important information about mental health and wellbeing, writing mental health news and self-improvement tips daily. Taylor received her bachelor’s degree in multimedia journalism, with minors in professional writing and leadership from Virginia Tech. She is a co-author of Leaving Depression Behind: An Interactive, Choose Your Path Book and has published content on Thought Catalog, Odyssey, and The Traveling Parent.

Check out “Leaving Depression Behind: An Interactive, Choose Your Path Book” written by AJ Centore and Taylor Bennett."

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