The 9 Health Benefits of Sleep
Most people can agree that crawling into bed at the end of the day, or even stopping for an afternoon nap, can be something to look forward to. The idea of sleep is relaxing and relieving – but did you know that there are actually several health benefits to sleep as well?
There is a reason why the idea of recharging our bodies and our brains sounds so appealing to us; in fact, there are several reasons. We’ve outlined nine ways that sleeping benefits your health. From memory improvement, attention, and focus on weight and life expectancy, the positives to taking a snooze may be more than you realize!
How Sleep Improves Memory
Do you struggle with studying for an exam or remembering points for a presentation? Getting a good night’s sleep can serve to better your memory. According to a study performed by researchers at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, sleep triggers changes in your brain that can play a key role in preserving your memories for longer periods of time.
This particular study revealed that sleep plays a vital role in a human’s development, which is why infants, children, and teenagers need more of it than adults. Basically, while you are sleeping, and your brain is further developing, you are also shifting your memory to better storage areas in your brain.
Shai Marcu takes a closer look at this idea in the TED-Ed video “The Benefits of a Good Night’s Sleep.” Sleep is crucial for your brain; there is a huge timeframe of restructuring going on in your brain while you are fast asleep.
While you are sleeping, there is memory consolidation going on. During this process, the information you’ve gathered is moved from short-term memory to long term memory. It may be more productive to focus on a getting a good night’s sleep rather than pulling an all-nighter before a big test.Additionally, another study tells us that sleep can improve both procedural memory and declarative memory in adults. This sharpens skills, procedures, and the recalling of facts
Healthy Sleeping Sharpens Attention
Do you ever have trouble concentrating on something and wonder why you can’t pull yourself together? According to the Harvard Health Letter, you may be lacking sleep. The amount of sleep that you have affects your thinking skills and ability to focus, so poor sleep habits can have a negative effect on your attention span.
Lack of sleep causes lack of attention and concentration, which can lead to lack of good judgment. This means that when you don’t get a good night’s sleep, you may quite literally not be able to think logically. Not being able to think practically or focus heavily on something might be highly troublesome if you are working on an important project for work or babysitting a small child.
Getting the right amount of sleep enables you to be sharp, attentive, and alert throughout your day. It also boosts your ability to learn and problem-solve, which can come in handy. Whether you are a student, a parent, or a worker, your day could be a lot easier with just a couple more hours of shut-eye.
Quite literally, after a good night’s sleep, you can wake up with a fresh mind that is ready to focus on a day’s worth of work and activity.
Sleeping and Healthy Weight
It is true that a proper, healthy diet and regular exercise are key ingredients to the formula of losing weight – everyone knows that. However, a lot of people may be missing a piece to this puzzle. Studies show that getting a good night’s sleep can be very important to maintaining a healthy weight.
This particular study over 16 years involving almost 70,000 women showed that women who slept five hours a night were 32 percent more likely to gain 33 pounds or more than the women who slept seven hours or more at night. At the same time, women who slept only six hours each night were 12 percent more likely to gain 33 pounds or more.
The reason for this may be that those who don’t get as much sleep often feel hungrier and need to consume more energy than those who sleep well. Not only that but sleep deprivation has been shown to increase changes in the hormones ghrelin and leptin, which boost your appetite and tell you when you’re full, respectively.
Aside from hormonal causes, trying to accomplish a busy day on a sleep-lacking brain may cause you to make decisions you normally wouldn’t make. When you’re tired, you might not feel like cooking, so you order out. You may grab an extra, sugary coffee because you lack energy. You could also decide to skip your workout because you’re just too exhausted. Your body may crave more unhealthy foods. All of these factors contribute to your weight.
On top of all of this, not getting enough sleep at night has been linked to lower metabolism and a decrease in the production of insulin.
While sleeping may not necessarily cause you to lose weight, it can definitely play a factor in gaining weight or messing with your healthy lifestyle. The conclusion here is that you really can’t have a healthy lifestyle with regular, good sleep.
Getting the proper amount of sleep can help you to clear out the fog in your brain that’s making it difficult for you to think clearly. Science has proved that while you are awake, neural activity builds up a kind of waste in your brain that needs to be cleared out.
Sleep actually clears out your mind. This makes it a whole lot easier to concentrate when you wake up. During your nighttime sleep or a mid-day nap, your brain activates more neural activity. Through your restorative snoozes, your brain is ridding you of the accumulation of cellular waste products and bad toxins.
The activity and energy necessary to complete this cleaning-out process are so intense that it simply cannot be completed while we’re awake; otherwise, we wouldn’t be able to function during the day. This emphasizes our need for regular sleep.
The build-up of these toxins and harmful compounds can cause neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s. Getting a good amount of sleep might be helpful is fending these types of diseases off.AlternaScript suggests that each individual track their own sleep schedule to determine what works best for you, as all of us are different. While some of us may only need 6 hours to clear the fog, other may need 8 or more.
Sleep Can Lower Stress
Everyone deals with some form of stress throughout our lives. It can be inhibiting to the flow of our daily activities and detrimental to important activities such as work and grades. Stress can make you feel like you’re falling behind in every aspect of your life and you just want to give up. One solution to the problem of stress can be a good night’s sleep.
While stress can cause a lack of sleep, at the same time sleep can help combat stress. If you are not getting good sleep and are tired all the time, you may be prone to be less patient with people, situations, etc. Being irritable can cause you to become stressed out easier.
A study shows that adults that get less than eight hours of sleep per night are more likely to show symptoms of stress, including irritability and anger. On the other hand, adults that are reporting lower levels of stress are sleeping more at night.
Unfortunately, stress itself can be the cause of your lack of sleep. This can cause a vicious cycle of being stressed, needing sleep, not being able to sleep, and getting more stressed. Continually being stressed can also lead to more health problems such as anxiety, depression, and issues with blood pressure. It may be a good idea to look into deeper reasons for your lack of sleep or practice better habits to drive your stress away.
Sleep and Mood
It doesn’t take an expert to figure out that lacking sleep can sorely affect a person’s mood. You may have even been told once or twice that you are “cranky” and you “need a nap.” Believe it or not, that is a pretty accurate diagnosis.
Your mood and the amount of sleep you get are closely related. Sleep deprivation, even if it is just partial, can significantly affect how you feel the next day. After a rough night of sleep or no sleep at all, you can become much more irritable and short-tempered. Feelings of anger, sadness, and exhaustion can creep up on sleepy people.
Even just one bad night of sleep can negatively impact our mood for the entire next day. Loss of energy and motivation can make us feel lazy, upset, and cause us to respond in very unpleasant ways. The detrimental effects on our daily lives can cause us to lose interest in even the good things that happen.
The good news is that better sleep means a better mood as well as improvements in energy and mental health. Developing healthy sleep habits and sticking to them can ensure you get the right amount of sleep at its best quality, which may help to level out your mood. Generally, it seems that those who are getting more sleep feel readier to take on the day in a positive mood. Everyone needs good sleep to remain happy as well as healthy.
In simple terms, the could possibly be as easy as developing good sleep habits to ensure you’re always getting a good night’s sleep. Because the is so direct, it is no surprise that proper sleep can help you to feel your best and maintain your best health.
Healthy Sleep Boosts Immune System
The immune system uses various cells and proteins that work to defend our body against germs that don’t belong there. When we are sleep deprived, some of those cell counts can drop, weakening the system’s levels of functioning. Even just short-term sleep loss can have big effects on our immune system.
While you are sleeping, some of the proteins your immune system releases are called cytokines. Some of these proteins promote sleep; however certain types must increase when your body is trying to fight off an infection. If you’re not getting the right amount of sleep, your immune system is going to have a hard time fighting off infections.
Melatonin is a chemical that is produced in your brain while you sleep. This hormone has several functions, including the production of estrogen and the suppression of free radicals. Melatonin has been linked to suppressing tumor development as well. Good sleep maintains your melatonin, which in turn can better your overall health.
In simple terms, the key to staying healthy could possibly be as easy as developing good sleep habits to ensure you’re always getting a good night’s sleep. Because the relation of sleep to your immune system is so direct, it is no surprise that proper sleep can help you to feel your best and maintain your best health.
Healthy Sleep Curbs Inflammation
Now that we have seen that sleep can affect your immune system, we can also take notice that sleep may help curb inflammation as well. Inflammation has been known to contribute to several health issues, including depression and inflammatory disease. A study reports that individuals who have trouble sleeping have been found to have inflammatory markers.
These same studies have shown that people who suffer from sleep disturbance had elevated levels of CRP and IL-6, which are substances that come as a result from inflammation and can cause complications such as hypertension and diabetes.
In fact, scientists have discovered several links between those with sleep-related disorders and inflammation-provoking disorders. Individuals suffering from insomnia and sleep apnea are often also suffering from stroke, diabetes, cancer, and other inflammatory diseases.
Sleeping has been known to curb inflammation and the pain that is associated with it. Referring back to the proteins cytokines may help us to understand this better. Some types of cytokines prompt inflammation in beneficial ways, but these same proteins that were discussed earlier in the immune system are produced more during sleep loss.
While there is both good and bad inflammation within the human body, those who indulge in good, healthy sleep are likely to decrease pain sensitivity. Therefore, more quality sleep has been linked to a decrease in pain-causing inflammation.
Healthy Sleep Helps You Live Longer
As we have seen throughout this entire article, it is clear that sleep has a myriad of helpful benefits for our daily health. Overall health is what keeps us living better and longer lives. Sleep could be a key factor in getting the most out of our life expectancy.
Making light of a good sleep routine can ultimately lead to detrimental health factors that may even shorten your lifespan. Sleep deprivation has been linked to some major health issues including high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, and cancer. All of these health issues are ones that can pose serious threats to your life.
Experts say that most people are getting a healthy amount of sleep if they get seven to nine hours each night, although it can vary person to person. Some people can run on less; the rule of thumb here is that if you can wake up easily and stay alert throughout your day, you are most likely getting enough sleep.
As we have mentioned previously in this discussion, sleep and its relation to the hormones leptin and ghrelin have a direct effect on weight. We know from various health classes, fitness blogs, and general knowledge that weight has a direct effect on our overall health. Therefore, if our sleep is going to affect our weight, it is going to impact our overall health.
Studies have shown us the long-term effect of sleep loss over the years. One study conducted over nine years found that those who routinely slept for just six hours or less each night had about a 70 percent higher risk of dying than those who got seven to eight hours of sleep per night.
Sleep loss can lead to several dangers in life that may affect life expectancy. For example, earlier we discussed how sleep deprivation could significantly affect your energy, attention span, and concentration. Getting the right amount of sleep heightens these things but losing sleep lowers all of them.
Lack of attention span, concentration, and dozing off can be extremely dangerous when doing things like driving a car or operating heavy, complicated machinery. Accidents like these can not only be detrimental to health but may also cause death.
In addition to our discussion about sleep and mood, insomnia and sleep depravity can cause depression. Depression has been known to not only affect your mental health but your physical health as well. Individuals suffering from depression may be likely to also suffer from more serious health concerns like heart disease, diabetes, obesity, osteoporosis, and substance abuse – all of which can shorten your lifespan.
Interestingly enough, studies have shown that sleep loss can lead to more sleep loss, which can be risky in your overall life. Some people get used to their six-hours-a-night schedule and don’t see a need to solve it, and it only spirals further down from there.
Overall, we have seen that regular, healthy, and proper amounts of sleep have enormously positive effects on our everyday lives. From memory, attention span, and concentration to our weight, mood, and immune system, it seems one of the best ways to feel your best is to maintain great sleep habits. It may be well worth your while to turn off the TV a half hour earlier tonight, relax before bed, and make sure you’re laying down and getting up around the same times every day.