The Benefits of Sleep

With today's busy lifestyle it is important that you get a good night's sleep on a regular basis. You shouldn't underestimate the benefits of sleep to help with both your physical and emotional health. Not getting enough sleep at night can make you cranky the next day, and over time, this lack of sleep can lead to more serious issues. Like diet and exercise, good quality sleep plays a significant role in our overall health.

What are the benefits of sleep? In this article you will learn the reasons why sleep is important for your health. Let’s begin.

Woman sleeping on bed with pillow - Benefits of Sleep

What Are The Benefits Of Sleep?

Scientists have done a lot of work to understand the importance of sleep. In studies of humans and other animals, they have discovered that sleep plays a critical role in immune function, metabolism, memory, learning, and other vital functions. Here are the top sleep benefits:

1.  Sleep Boosts Your Immune System

Your immune system identifies harmful bacteria and viruses in your body and destroys them to help you ward off illnesses. When your body gets the sleep it needs, your immune cells and proteins are able to fight off whatever infections come their way — like colds or the flu. Ongoing lack of sleep changes the way your immune cells work. They may not attack as quickly, and you could get sick more often.

Good nightly rest can help you avoid that tired, worn-out feeling, as well as the time spent in bed as your body tries to recover.

2.  Sleep Improves Your Memory

Sleep plays a big part in both learning and memory. When you sleep well, your body may be resting but your brain is busy organizing and storing memories. Without enough sleep, it's hard to focus and take in new information. Your brain also doesn't have enough time to properly store memories so you can pull them up later. When you're running low on sleep, you may notice that you have trouble recalling details. A good night’s sleep benefits your brain by allowing it to catch up so you're ready for what's next. So getting more quality sleep will help you remember and process things better.

3.  Sleep Makes You Smarter

Along with a great night’s sleep, grabbing a quick nap in the daytime can contribute towards making your brain more effective and productive. You won’t necessarily be answering all the questions on Jeopardy, but you will feel sharper, more attentive and focused throughout the day. 

Bonus: Taking a power nap during the day is also an effective, refreshing alternative to caffeine.

4.  Good Sleep Improves your Mood

Chronic sleep deprivation can increase your chances of having a mood disorder. Sleep impacts many of the chemicals in your body, including serotonin. People with serotonin deficiencies are more likely to suffer from depression or other anxiety or panic disorders. You can help to prevent (or minimize the effect of) these disorders by making sure you are getting the right amount of sleep: 7 - 9 hours each night is recommended for adults. A refreshing sleep helps you hit the reset button on a bad day, improve your outlook on life, and be better prepared to meet challenges.

5.  Sleeping Helps In Weight Control

Did you get excited when you read this benefit of sleep? Spoiler alert: Sleep doesn’t directly make you lose weight. But, it helps you keep it under control by

  • regulating the hormones that affect your appetite, and 
  • reducing your cravings for high calorie foods.

Researchers have found that people who sleep less than 7 hours per night are more likely to be overweight or obese. It is thought that regular reduced hours of sleep negatively affects the balance of hormones in the brain  -- leptin and ghrelin -- that control appetite.

With these hormones out of balance, your resistance to the temptation for unhealthy foods goes way down. And when you're tired, you're less likely to want to get up and move your body. Together, it's a recipe for packing on the pounds. So if you want to maintain or lose weight, don't forget that getting adequate sleep on a regular basis is a huge part of the equation.

 6.  Sleep Improves Heart Health

While you sleep, your blood pressure goes down, giving your heart and blood vessels a bit of a rest. The less sleep you get, the longer your blood pressure stays up during a 24-hour cycle. This increases your chances of heart attacks and strokes. Thus short-term down time can have long-term effects. 

Getting restful sleep can help reduce blood pressure and cholesterol, encouraging relaxation and generally improving heart health. Thus the benefit of sleep is that your heart will be healthier (and happier).

7.  Sleep Helps Prevent Cancer

One of the reasons why sleep is important is in the production of melatonin. Melatonin is a hormone that regulates the sleep-wake cycle, and is thought to protect against cancer as it appears to suppress the growth of tumors. Researchers believe light exposure reduces melatonin levels in the body. They also believe that people who work the late shift are at a higher risk of developing breast and colon cancer. 

So whenever you are going to sleep be sure that your bedroom is dark and avoid using electronics before bed in order to help your body produce the melatonin it needs.

woman on bed looking at mobile phone

8.  Sleeping Reduces Stress

Without enough sleep, your body can react by producing elevated levels of stress hormones - a natural result of today’s faster paced lifestyles. Prolonged exposure to elevated stress hormones result in sustained elevations of blood sugar, substantial loss of calcium from bones, depression of important immune responses, high blood pressure, loss of muscle mass, increased fat accumulation, and even loss of cognitive function. Regular deep sleep can help prevent this.

 9.  Sleep Helps Steady Blood Sugar Levels

During the deep, slow-wave part of your sleep cycle, the amount of glucose in your blood drops. Reduced time in this deep sleep stage means you don't get that break to allow a reset, leaving your body stressed. Your body will therefore have a harder time responding to your cells' needs and blood sugar levels. The benefit of sleep is that the more you allow your body to reach and remain in deep sleep, the less likely to get type 2 diabetes.

10.  Quality Sleep Enhances Athletic Ability

Sleep is a time during which the body is hard at work repairing itself from damage caused by physical and mental stress, ultraviolet rays, and other harmful exposure. Your cells produce more protein while you are sleeping. These protein molecules form the building blocks for cells, allowing them to repair the damage.

Besides robbing you of energy and time for muscle repair, poor sleep habits saps your motivation, which is what gets you to the finish line. You'll face a harder mental and physical challenge -- and see slower reaction times.

The health benefits of proper sleep is that you feel energized and alert the next day setting you up for your best performance.

11.  Sleep Reduces Inflammation

Increased stress hormones caused by poor sleep raises the level of inflammation in your body. This creates a greater risk for heart-related conditions, as well as cancer and diabetes. Inflammation is thought to cause the body to deteriorate as you age. While you’re sleeping your body is producing extra protein molecules that can strengthen your ability to fight infections and inflammation. So if you’re feeling a bit run down, "feeling your age", or don’t want to develop a full-blown cold, go to bed early and get lots of rest.

12.  Sleep Makes You More Alert

Not getting enough rest can make you more agitated, so you’re more likely to snap at the boss or be grumpy with a loved one, neither of which is a good thing. A good night's sleep makes you feel energized and alert the next day. 

Being engaged and active not only feels great but increases your chances for another good night's sleep. When you wake up feeling refreshed, use that energy to get out into the daylight, do active things, and be engaged with your world. You'll sleep better the next night and increase your daily energy level.

13.  Sleeping Helps The Body Repair Itself

Sleep is a time to relax, but it's also a time during which the body is hard at work repairing damage caused by stress, ultraviolet rays, and other harmful exposure. As mentioned above, your cells produce more protein while you are sleeping. These protein molecules form the building blocks for cells, allowing them to repair the damage. So if you’re suffering pain from a recent injury like a sprained ankle, getting plenty of sleep can actually make you hurt less. Many studies have shown a link between sleep loss and a lower pain threshold. Basically the more sleep you get the less pain you might be in.

How Can You Get The Benefits Of Sleep?

As you read through the article, you would have noticed that you experienced at least one of the sleep benefits when you had a good night’s sleep. So if you thought that it didn't matter how much sleep you got, or maybe you can "put it off until....", think again -- sleep is VERY important to our overall health and wellbeing.  How do you get started seeing the benefits of sleep? You will have to develop good sleep hygiene. Start with improving quality of sleep, and begin taking steps to make it into a routine.

A Word of Caution:
We’ve learned about the effects of too little sleep, but too much can have negative effects as well. Research found that people who slept longer than necessary had more calcium buildup in their heart arteries and less flexible leg arteries, too.

Let's make a commitment to get the sleep we need so that we can be the best we can be.

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