8 reasons why you should sleep 8 hours a night — and how to do it

From upping your pain threshold to increasing your capacity for memory, these are the surprising benefits of sleeping through from dusk til dawn

Sleep. Everyone loves it. Everyone needs it. And we spend around one third of our entire lives doing it. It’s an important thing — so why do so, so many of us do it so, so badly?

There are many people around the world and throughout history, from Margaret Thatcher to Donald Trump, who allegedly only sleep for 4 hours a night. And, although it clearly(?) worked for them, many research studies and sleep scientists suggest that you should double that figure to reach the optimal length of shut-eye.

So, if you’re currently clocking fewer than 8 hours every night, here’s the same number of reasons why you should be getting them. And, if you’re struggling, some tips to drift off too…

Drifting off decreases your risk for health conditions

It’s a morbid start, but an important one nonetheless. Sleeping, for all its short-term benefits, is also a key way to improve your long-term life. In fact, researchers in Britain studied over 1 million people and found that those who slept for less than six hours a night were 12 per cent more likely to die prematurely.

Just to be safe, we’d suggest boosting that to 8 hours a night. And an interesting way to drop off quickly is to take a hot shower before bed. Warming yourself up before stepping into cool air will cause your body temperature to drop precipitously, slow your metabolism and prepare you for sleep. Of course, if you’re going to shower then you should shower properly; and invest in the finest gels and washes on the market.

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Turning in will help manage your hunger levels

You may not even realise this, but poor sleep habits can affect your appetite. If you get up to 8 hours of sleep, that means you spend a good third of your day motionless — and your need for calories is reduced. Stay up, or toss and turn, and your body will need more food to compensate for the energy you’re using.

It makes sense, then, to look for ways to send yourself off to sleep. That way, you’ll not only have more energy, but you’ll also stay trim. It’s an odd one, but Swiss researchers found that warm feet were the best predictors of rapid sleep onset. In science speak, it widens blood vessels, increases heat loss and lets you cool yourself through your extremities. In style speak, it means you can wear these choice socks.

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Sleeping tight helps maintain your immune system

Even a small loss of sleep can detrimentally affect your immune system. So, if you’re frequently getting less than eight hours a night, you could be in trouble. Studies have even found that those who sleep less than seven hours a night are three times more likely to develop a common cold than those who sleep over eight.

So it’s high time you got to sleep. And, if you’ve ever been on a long haul flight, you know that a sure fire way to drop off is to slip on an eye mask. Go for something silky or in a cashmere-blend and you’ll feel comfortable wherever you lay your head.

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Catching Zs helps you retain your memory

In addition to helping you focus and keeping the inches off your waistline, a good night’s sleep can also help protect and strengthen your memory. Research has show than those who don’t get their 8 hours have a harder time receiving information, judging situations without impairment and accessing previously-learned information.

Of course, the best way to get around this is to keep a diary. And there are some great journals out there, as you can see below. But happily, engaging in such a cathartic and manual activity before bedtime can also help you wind down and send you off to sleep itself. Win-win.

8 reasons why you should sleep 8 hours a night — and how to do it

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Getting shut-eye increases concentration and productivity

From cognition and concentration to productivity and performance, sleep really is a magic thing when it comes to your mental wellbeing. Sleep deprivation, then, is a bad, bad thing. Your problem-solving skills will decrease and you’ll make more errors in daily life than you would if you had your requisite 8 hours of shut-eye.

How to make sure you get your forty winks? Studies have shown that hiding your clock can work wonders, as constantly checking the time only ups your stress levels. Instead, swap out your alarm clock radio for a speaker, and play relaxing classical music (or any must with a slow rhythm of 60 to 80 beats per minute) for 45 minutes before you turn in.

8 reasons why you should sleep 8 hours a night — and how to do it

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Hitting the hay lessens your chances of developing depression

Mental health issues, such as depression, are incredibly strongly linked to poor sleep quality. In fact, around 90 per cent of people with depression complain about their quality of sleep — yet another reason to make bedtime one of the most important moments of your day.

And key in that process is pyjamas. Rather than slipping on an old T-shirt and boxers, creating a bedtime ritual can help mentally prepare you for bed, and will ensure you drop off more easily than you otherwise would. And, with pyjamas like this, you shouldn’t need much convincing.

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Your forty winks can help improve your social interactions

Here’s an interesting one: Lack of sleep can affect your performance in social situations. From a tempered ability to understand the emotional facial expressions of your friends to how effectively you can recognise and react to social cues, if you are clocking fewer than 8 hours sleep, you might be jeopardising your relationships.

Thankfully, a 2005 study by Wesleyan University found that subjects who were exposed to the scent of lavender before bedtime had lower blood pressure, relaxed nerves and an overall higher chance of falling into a deep and beneficial sleep. You heard the scientists, now get on it…

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Dropping off can up your pain threshold

Another interesting one. If you’ve had a recent injury — anything from a sprained ankle to a broken leg — rather than popping another ibuprofen, you should try to get your 8 hours every night. Many studies have shown a link between sleep loss and a lower pain threshold, so the more winks you get, the tougher you’ll become.

But, if you’re struggling to sleep in the first place, how can you ensure you drop off? Easy. Cool yourself down. This may mean just turning your heating off or cracking a window, but we’d suggest throwing off the duvet for a cool sheet, buying some linen pyjamas or investing in a fan instead.

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Further Reading