Why Less Sleep May Not Be So Bad

A new study reveals how interrupted sleep wreaks havoc on your mind and body the next day.
Matej Kastelic/Shutterstock

From the time I can remember, sleep has been ingrained in my mind as an essential part of life. From mandatory nap times in preschool to strict "lights out" times at summer camp, this mindless task was the vital aspect to living a healthy life. Even the dog snoozed soundly for hours on end.

Since sleep was the answer to everything, I became obsessed with getting enough rest as I got older. Stay healthy? Log more z's. Fight off wrinkles and dull skin? Have more energy and feel motivated? You guessed it. Hit the hay. So, I made it my mission to get at least nine hours each night. To this day, I make sure work assignments are done and other tasks are completed by 11 p.m. on weeknights, even if that consequently means lying awake, restless, for a few extra hours during the night.

But no matter how hard I try, sleepless nights seem inevitable. I loathe the times when that blissful state just won't come. Tossing and turning while lying wide awake at night only gives me more anxiety, since I fear being sluggish and drained the next day.

A recent study is shedding some light on how our sleep habits affect us. It revealed that people who experienced sleep interruptions fared much worse than those who got fewer hours of quality, sound sleep. Researchers found that those who suffered several interruptions throughout the night had a 31 percent reduction in positive mood the next day (compared to those who slept fewer hours—they only had a 12 percent drop in mood). Moreover, interrupted sleep not only negatively affected mood and energy levels but also reduced levels of friendliness and sympathy the day after.

Although I don't have kids of my own, I know that being a parent is one time-consuming job. Even after the kids are asleep, you face all the other responsibilities that were pushed aside during the day: bills, laundry, cleaning, emails...the list goes on. Do you work tirelessly into the night to get it all done, or should you aim for the recommended seven to eight hours and turn in for the night? The decision is tough and varies for everyone, but you can now rest assured (literally) that a later bedtime involving a few hours of solid sleep may actually do you some good the next day. I know I'll certainly reconsider my sleep habits from now on.

Jennifer Cole is an Editorial Intern at Parents magazine who loves barre classes, dark chocolate, and curly-haired pups. Follow her on Twitter: @jcole918.

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