Why Is Sleep Important?

This post was published on the now-closed HuffPost Contributor platform. Contributors control their own work and posted freely to our site. If you need to flag this entry as abusive, send us an email.

Sleeping is one critical activity your body needs to do on a regular basis. In the past, humans slept to conserve their energy for daytime food hunting. While it still holds the same critical function for humans' bodies, modern people do not value sleep as much as their ancestors did.

Since the invention of the light bulb, people have become busier. Modern technology offers various kinds of entertainment that are more fun than a simple rest. Sleep seems to be a waste of time.

The truth is, sleep is too important to ignore. Not only it works for energy conservation purpose, it also has other benefits. According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute of U.S. Department of Health and Human Service, a lot of your body maintenance processes occur while you sleep:

Improved brain function

During sleep, your brain creates new pathways that enable you to memorize what you learned during the day. Learning new skills becomes easier as your brain recalls more details. As your memory sharpens, you will become more creative and make better decisions.

Improved mental health

Sleep is also important to maintain your mental health. Sleep-deficient people have a problem controlling their emotions and coping with life changes. They are more likely to have poor concentration, mood swing, impulsive behavior, and depression.

Improved physical health

Sleep helps maintain healthy heart and blood vessels, repair body cells and tissues, and boost the immune system. Sleep lowers the risk of diabetes by keeping blood sugar level in check. It also reduces the risk of obesity by balancing hormones which control the feeling of fullness and hunger.

Increased performance and safety

Sleep makes you more productive and functions better in life. It also makes you more alert while doing work that requires focus. Lack of sleep results in " micro-sleep ", a moment of brief sleep or loss of attention due to brain fatigue.

Microsleep is dangerous, as it can cause accidents. In fact, some famous work accidents happened due to sleep-related problems. The Chernobyl disaster and Challenger explosion are to name but a few.

The importance of sleep has led major companies like Google, Huffington Post, and Zappos, to embrace napping culture. They allow their employees to take 15 to 20 minutes nap at their workspace. This culture has been widely known as "power nap".

Power nap gives you a burst of energy. The effect may not be as strong as that of a full-length sleep, but taking a nap is better than none. Napping does not cause an energy crash, which makes it a better choice than caffeine.

According to a study done by the University of California, napping can improve work performance. The research shows that the subjects who take a nap have better scores in the given tasks than those who took caffeine pills. Despite their increased alertness, the caffeine group scores lower.

This only shows the importance of sleep even more. But if you want to nap, there is one important rule you must remember. Never sleep for more than 30 minutes, or you will wake up feeling sluggish and disoriented. Time your nap between 20 to 30 minutes and you will wake up refreshed.

There will always be hundreds of distractions that might keep you from living a healthy life. But, you can always be mindful about your choice. Sleep well to improve your health and your life will also be improved.