Man’s search for happiness seems to be a never-ending quest. And not the sort of adventure that’s filled with wisecracking sidekicks, dramatic landscapes and catchy songs. It can be a tireless slog through the mundane; a lonely, desperate attempt to find meaning that often leaves us with empty pockets and heavy hearts.
A cheery thought, right?! Well, what if I told you that the key to happiness isn’t something very abstract, complex or even costly? It’s something you already know how to do. In fact, you do it every night.
Unfortunately the key to happiness isn’t brushing your teeth. But in fact, it can be just as simple! Because our happiness can be as a direct result of sleep – enough of it, when it’s of a good quality, on a consistent basis.
Sleep makes us happy. Fact. And here’s why:
1. It boosts our mental health
While sleep deprivation can lead to anxiety disorders like insomnia and depression, staying well rested allows the mind to be at peace even in the face of adversary. Whether it’s someone cutting in front of you at the bank queue or an angry colleague seeking confrontation or your partner forgetting your birthday, better sleep means you don’t sweat the small stuff.
And the larger stuff, like anxiety and depression, isn’t just made worse by substance abuse; sleep can make a huge difference, too. Because some form of sleep disruption is present in nearly all psychiatric disorders; when we suffer from them, we have difficulty sleeping, and this sleep deprivation makes the condition even worse. It’s a vicious circle that can cause us to feel lethargic and emotional, unmotivated to do anything and lashing out at those around us.
Fortunately, the circle can be broken even after a few nights of better sleep.
2. It improves our physical health
In addition to affecting how we feel mentally, getting enough sleep keeps us in peak physical condition. First of all, it boosts the immune system, helps us to stay in shape and relieves chronic pain. Second of all, we simply have more energy to look after ourselves!
Instead of turning over and hitting the “snooze” button after yet another restless night, we might get up for a jog or an early morning yoga class before work. Or we’ll stick to that healthy eating resolution we made. Or we’ll be able to run around after the kids instead of just sticking on the TV when they get back from school.
And since staying rested makes us less vulnerable to every cold and stomach bug going around, we’ll be able to keep fit and healthy, all year round.
3. It can help our career
You know how some days you feel like a work machine, clearing your inbox before 9.30am, coming up with that killer pitch idea, delivering on that whopper presentation and generally wowing your boss with your unwavering efficiency? Those days are great. Other days, like the ones where you can’t remember your login name, not so much.
There’s a simple difference between these two versions of you (and no, it isn’t coffee). It’s sleep. A sleep-deprived brain can just about function on day-to-day activities, as it switches to autopilot. Throw in some kind of obstacle though, or ask it to multi-task, and it’s rendered about as useful as a waterproof teabag.
On the other hand, getting enough, good-quality sleep means you’re able to make smart decisions faster, to be more creative, enthusiastic and productive at everything you do. You’ll also be a dream to work with – now, if that’s not the makings of “Employee of the Month”, I don’t know what is!
4. It enhances our relationships
Crying over the lack of cereal left in the cupboard or screaming at your partner for chewing an apple too loudly does not mean you’re losing your mind. Well, not always!
Most of the time it’s because you’re underslept and over-emotional. And unfortunately, even if you improve your mood with caffeine and sugar, the crashes will get to you eventually. The result? Bouts of elation and despair, high levels of irritability and flashes of anger and an all-round feeling that the world is out to get you.
Combine that with the forgotten dates and missed events that an impaired memory brings and…well, no offence, but it can kind of make you a crappy friend!
Don’t worry though – relationships can be mended and even given a top-class makeover with better sleep. You’ll become more thoughtful and tolerant, caring and considerate to your partner, friends, colleagues and even strangers on the street. And these improved relationships will go a long way to strengthening the most important one of all…the relationship you have with yourself.
5. It gives us a positive outlook
There’s a reason for the phrase: “Things will look better in the morning”. Because through well-rested eyes, the world really does look rosier. And if you’ve improved your mental and physical health, with better career prospects and great relationships…it’ll be sooo much easier to face the world with a smile!
Worries and anxieties, the big and the small, will melt away as you focus on the bigger picture. With this clarity you’ll be able to appreciate every moment you’re alive – and this gratitude will radiate out of you, having a positive impact on everyone you meet.
So instead of spending a fortune on the latest “path to happiness”, keep it simple: get some sleep. And luckily, there are plenty of resources out there that can help you to do so!
It may not happen overnight but once your sleep levels improve on a consistent basis, you’ll notice some big changes to your mood, your health and your overall happiness.
So sweet dreams, everyone…and a happy awakening!