At a Glance
- A huge percentage of adults in the US do not get the recommended amount of sleep each night
- Getting the right amount of sleep offers numerous benefits to both physical and mental health.
- Optimal sleep is thought to prevent the onset of numerous chronic diseases and reduce your risk of developing conditions like obesity.
When taking care of our health, a balanced diet and exercise is top of the list; yet many of us simply overlook the fact that sleeping has so many benefits.
The importance of sleeping is so underrated it’s becoming a serious issue. According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 35 percent of adults are not getting the recommended seven hours of sleep each night. (source)
I want to share with you 21 health benefits for sleeping to show to you just why it’s so important to catch your Zs.
#1 Reduces the Risk of Stress
Stress has serious implications for our hormones as well as our health. It also has a love hate relationship with sleep.
Our bodies go through different stages of sleep and at a certain points it works to restore, repair and regenerate. Ensuring your body has enough quality sleep will allow it to complete this process. This means you wake up refreshed.
When you feel this way, your outlook on issues are viewed differently as opposed to when you are tired and weary. Sleep is also a great way to relax and clear your mind.
#2 Prevents Weight Gain
Watching your weight is not just for vanity. Obesity is on the increase and can lead to other illnesses. Sleeping well is one thing that can help you keep tabs on your weight.
One theory on how sleeping affects body composition relates to hormones. Leptin and ghrelin are known to regulate appetite. Sleeping manages the balance of these hormones. This means if you don’t sleep enough, it causes an increased feeling of hunger.
In fact, studies have identified a clear link between lack of sleep and obesity. Results indicated short sleepers were 35 percent more likely to experience weight gain and have a 27 percent greater risk of developing obesity. (source)
#3 Prevents Risk of Injury
Getting enough sleep could keep you in safe hands. This could apply to anyone, but it’s particularly significant for those that work with machinery or drive for a living.
If you haven’t had the right amount of sleep it can impact on your reaction times and cloud your judgment. This combination has the potential to cause accidents.
Almost 20 percent of all serious car crash injuries are associated with driver sleepiness. (source)
Research findings also suggested workers with sleep issues increase their risk of injury over 1.5 times higher than workers who got enough sleep. (source)
#4 Reduced Chance of Depression
According to National Institute of Mental Health, depression is one of the most common mental disorders in the US. (source)
It’s a mood disorder that causes feelings of sadness, low self esteem or negativity. In severe cases it can affect day-to-day life dramatically.
Poor sleep quality is closely related to depression. Many insomniacs are often treated for this disorder. In one survey, those who reported symptoms of insomnia had a 33.6 percent higher rate of depression. (source)
Many people who suffer from depression are reported to have lower levels of serotonin in their bodies. This is one of the mood hormones which affects your positivity. Sleeping restores the balance while you rest and reinforces why it’s so beneficial.
#5 Boosts Your Immune System
The immune system is the body’s front line of defense which prevents you from falling ill. However it does require sleep to remain in prime fighting condition.
When you sleep, your body produces proteins and antibodies which boost your immunity and fend off infection. If you don’t get enough rest, it interferes with the entire process – making you more susceptible to sickness.
Experts recruited volunteers to test the theory. They introduced the common cold virus and monitored their sleep pattern. Those that slept less than seven hours were three times more likely to develop the illness than volunteers who had more than eight hours rest. (source)
#6 Reduces the Risk of Cardiovascular Diseases
Throughout the stages of sleep your heart and cardiovascular system lowers in tempo. This alleviates all the stresses and hard work the vital organ has been put through during waking hours.
For many this is one solid reason why sleep looks after your heart.
Another theory is linked to inflammation. This is a cause of chronic diseases including many relating to the heart. Getting the right amount of sleep may not entirely eliminate risk but it can help reduce the threat.
C-reactive proteins in the blood are a sign of inflammation in the body and cardiovascular tissues. (source) Research has proven sleep deprivation causes elevated concentrations of said c-reactive proteins. (source)
Other studies reinforce the relationship between lack of sleep and the heart. Those that suffer with sleep disorders are at a greater risk of cardiovascular illnesses. (source)
#7 Increases Exercise Performance
When we exercise, focus is often driven towards the activity, yet recovery is just as important.
After you workout your body needs to repair damaged muscle to allow it to grow stronger. When you are in the stages of deep sleep, it’s at this point the body repairs and generates growth cells, thus aiding the recovery process.
Not only that, sleep decreases tiredness. This has shown to improve performance by increasing reaction times and speed. Stanford University incorporated a sleep extension program into their basketball team’s regime. Their shooting accuracy improved by nine percent. (source)
#8 Enhances Focus and Attention
Getting a good night’s rest is vital for your mental health. If you have ever had a bad night’s sleep, you will also notice that your concentration is particularly lacking too.
Cognitive performance includes functions such as focus, attention and alertness, all of which could be affected if you don’t sleep properly. If you feel tired you will notice that your mind wanders and you become easily distracted from the task at hand.
This is particularly significant with younger individuals. Many parents can sympathize with the fact children display lack of attention or concentration at some point.
Children require more sleep than adults. This can range from up to 16 hours a day for aged 12 months and between 9 to 12 hours for those aged 6 to 12. (source)
A relationship between sleep and attention-deficit or hyperactivity disorders in children has been extensively researched. Although it’s very doubtful it is part of the cause, children who don’t sleep enough can display the symptoms of these behavioral disorders.
According to American Academy of Sleep Medicine, children who suffer with sleep apnea are associated with a higher risk of ADHD-like behavioral and adaptive problems. (source)
#9 Improves Learning Ability
Learning something new keeps the mind active and enhances your knowledge. Sleeping well can help you to broaden your horizons.
The learning process within the brain can be broken down into three key stages.
- Obtain: Initial information is absorbed into the brain.
- Retain: Information is embedded into the mind.
- Recall: Information remains in your mind and becomes knowledge.
The crucial point concerning sleep relates to the retain element. Quality sleep allows the brain to process the information obtained. It reorganizes data in the mind which also restores the capacity for new learning.
In this case, the duration of sleep may not be as significant. Studies suggest that even taking “power” naps of less than 30 minutes can promote wakefulness. This improves your performance and learning ability. (source)
#10 Increases Memory Ability
The ability to remember things both long term and short term is heavily related to your sleep quality.
When you sleep, it’s easy to think that your body goes into a state of total shut down. However, although you have switched off for the night, your mind becomes active. This is where your brain starts to reexamine, reorganize and reinforce memories from the day.
Long term memory is what helps you to remember facts or events throughout your life. Procedural memory allows us to carry out actions through practice to the point where you don’t need to think about them.
These different categories of memory are benefited by certain stages of sleep.
Long term or declarative memory is enhanced by slow wave sleep (SWS) and actually gains better results from a shorter sleep duration. Procedural memory benefits from rapid eye movement sleep (REM). (source)
#11 Reduces Risk of Type 2 Diabetes
One of the main causes of type 2 diabetes is an unhealthy lifestyle. Sleeping better is one way to reduce your chance of developing this condition.
With type 2 diabetes, your body doesn’t process the hormone insulin efficiently enough. Therefore blood sugar levels are not properly regulated. This is commonly referred to as being “insulin resistant”.
Sleeping plays a part in moderating the hormones which affect blood sugar regulation and reduce resistance. (source)
In fact, an increase in risk has been linked with those that don’t sleep enough as opposed to those who do. Partial sleep deprivation in one night alone has shown to induce insulin resistance in healthy people who don’t have diabetes. (source)
#12 Helps You to See Better
Ensuring you get adequate shut eye is important to keep them strong and healthy. Eye health can be affected when your sleep duration is shorter than it should be.
Your eyes need to be kept suitably moisturized and your tear ducts allow this to happen. For many that don’t get enough sleep, dry eyes is a common issue because it has been shown to cause a reduction in tear secretion. (source)
Over time, sleep deprivation can also have implications on your field of sight. The term “tunnel vision” is where your sight is restricted to the centre which can be particularly dangerous for drivers. (source)
#13 Keeps Your Sex Drive Supercharged
Sleeping is important for nocturnal activities, better sleep means better sex. Getting the right amount of rest allows your body to restore testosterone to healthy levels which is essential for your libido.
The feeling of tiredness also plays a big part in amorous adventures. Many people who feel drained would rather catch up on lost sleep than get down to business. And research suggests increasing your sleep duration by only one hour can improve your sex life by up to 14 percent. (source)
For those with sleeping disorders, issues with sexual performance are also commonplace. Many men that suffer with sleep apnea also experience erectile dysfunction. (source)
And the good news is having sex also helps you sleep better.
#14 Reduces Risk of Alzheimer’s
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, 1 in 10 people over 65 has the disease. (source)
This form of dementia is degenerative and affects cognitive functions such as memory, perception and behavior. Unfortunately there is still no known cure for Alzheimer’s disease.
There is growing evidence to suggest sleep disturbances are attributable to the risk of Alzheimer’s.
Individuals with sleep problems have a 1.5 times higher risk for developing Alzheimer’s than those without (source).
#15 Keeps Blood Pressure Regulated
When you reach deep sleep your body goes into a state of total relaxation. Your breathing slows which lowers heart rate. This leads to a dip in blood pressure which experts suggests is all part of the body attempting to restore equilibrium. (source)
In fact studies show patients’ blood pressure and heart rate increased when deprived of sleep. (source)
#16 Reduces Fatigue
The odd late night may not hurt you every once in awhile, however if it becomes a habit it could be causing more damage than you realize.
Sleeping prevents you from feeling tired, limiting risk of fatigue creeping in. It gives your body the rest and recuperation it needs.
To explain to you how serious fatigue can be, a study proved sleep deprivation reduced reaction times by half. It created cognitive impairments to such an extent it displayed effects equivalent to or greater than that of being intoxicated by alcohol. (source)
#17 Reduces the Risk of Cancer
According to American Cancer Society, more than 1,500 people die each day because of this disease. (source) There is increasing evidence surrounding the importance of sleep and reducing risk of certain types of cancer.
Shift workers often have an irregular sleep pattern and night shift workers are often classed as living a nocturnal existence. Nurses often have to work all hours and this kind of lifestyle plays havoc with sleep.
Research discovered that nurses who worked more than three nights per month increased their risk of colorectal cancer. The reason, exposure to light at night prevents production of melatonin which has anti-cancer properties. (source)
#18 Keeps Your Skin Healthy
For many, maintaining healthy skin means reaching for numerous skin care treatments. However quality sleep complements any beauty regime.
Collagen is a major element skin composition, it’s what keeps the skin supple and gives it that healthy glow. Sleep initiates the processes which affect the production of collagen. (source)
Eczema is a skin condition which often begins in childhood. This causes the skin to become inflamed creating an itchy rash, dry skin and discomfort. Eczema not only disrupts sleep, but the lack of sleep can also exacerbate inflammatory symptoms creating a vicious circle. (source)
#19 Alleviates Chance of Headaches
Headaches are a common occurrence for many people. Getting quality sleep can cut your risk.
Studies have proven poor sleep quality is significantly associated with headache or migraine frequency. (source)
Although experts are unsure of the exact biological mechanisms, headaches caused by lack of sleep reinforce the theory sleep helps to restore brain function.
#20 Increases Pain Inhibition
For those that suffer from conditions such as arthritis, scoliosis or fibromyalgia, the experience of chronic pain is all too familiar.
Sleeping is one way to relieve the perception of pain. However the challenge is to achieve sleep in the first place. This can prove difficult as constant pain can also prevent you from sleeping.
Sleep deprivation and pain have long been associated with each other, but there is reason to believe it can also weaken your threshold. Studies suggest if you get disturbed during the night you are more likely to experience an increased sensitivity to pain. (source)
#21 Can Increase Your Lifespan
Taking into consideration all the health benefits of sleeping, it will come as no surprise it can increase longevity.
Insomnia is one of the most common sleeping disorders and is a significant factor in many mood disorders. If you have an irregular sleep pattern or a shorter duration of sleep, it’s been linked to a higher risk of suicidal tendencies. (source)
However you can have too much of a good thing and finding the right balance of sleep is necessary.
Those that sleep the recommended seven hours a night are at the lowest risk of reducing lifespan. Whereas those that sleep longer and shorter durations have a higher risk of loss of life. (source)