Can sleep make me happy?

A good night's sleep AND a teddy bear? What more could anyone ask for?
A good night's sleep AND a teddy bear? What more could anyone ask for?
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"Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise" is a phrase from "Poor Richard's Almanack," first published by Benjamin Franklin in 1732. That's quite a tall order for just one night of sleep, but it's hard to disagree with the concept behind Franklin's statement. Getting a proper amount of sleep each night plays a huge part in ensuring a high quality of life. Is it possible that the pursuit of happiness, to borrow a phrase from one of Franklin's fellow founding fathers, could be achieved by going to bed?

Certainly, we don't advocate sleeping the day away; oversleeping can be a symptom of depression. But there's no denying that we feel better when we get the right amount of sleep each night, particularly when you compare how we feel on no sleep at all. It's hard to enjoy your favorite activities or accomplish anything at work or school if you're bleary-eyed, cranky and gulping down all the coffee available in a five-mile radius.

That's easy enough to say, you may be thinking, but who has the time to sleep? There are too many other fun things to do, like holding movie marathons with the girls, engaging in epic battles of video games until the wee hours of the morning or finishing that best-selling page turner. By staying up a few hours later, we can chat online with friends living halfway around the world in different time zones or see the end of the Academy Awards. And it's not all fun and games, either -- many of us feel compelled to burn the midnight oil just to finish our family's laundry or to meet an impossible deadline for work.

But if you think that the hours of lost sleep to finish your work-related projects will pay off in a big promotion one day, consider these words from psychologist Norbert Schwarz: "Making $60,000 more in annual income has less of an effect on your daily happiness than getting one extra hour of sleep a night" [source: Barnett]. Scientists may not know exactly why we need to go to sleep every night, but they are learning what will happen to our bodies and minds if we don't. Read on to find out why you owe it to your family, friends, co-workers, and of course, yourself, to get a proper amount of sleep each night.