Lack of sleep could be taking a serious toll on your mental and physical health.
Sleep-deprivation has been linked to everything from chronic health conditions to barely-there libido and strained relationships.
Thanks to the body’s amazing ability to bounce back, all hope isn’t lost—even for the most exhausted of you. In fact, prioritizing Z’s could make you a happier, healthier person.
Here at Pillow Picker, we’ve compiled an exhaustive list of the benefits of sufficient sleep, along with the research to back it up.
The Many Health Benefits of Getting Enough Sleep
1. Sleep Can Make You Smarter
Skipping out on sleep can actually make it difficult to learn and retain information. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) reports that people who get a good night’s sleep after learning a new task are better able to recall what they’ve learned. In addition, it’s just as important to get adequate rest the night before a mentally-challenging task.
While getting at least 6 hours of sleep boosts the learning process, it’s important to note that longer snoozers reap even more benefits. According to NIH research, folks who sleep 8 hours outperform those who doze for 6 or 7 hours.
Whether you’re studying for an important exam, or learning a new computer system in work, sleep could be a key to your success.
2. Sleep Keeps Your Heart Healthy
The heart and vascular system work in tandem around the clock to keep your cardiovascular health in tip-top shape. The NIH notes that natural dips in breathing and blood pressure during our sleeping hours keeps the cardiovascular system going strong. If sleep is cut short, this needed variance in our internal systems doesn’t take place. Over time, lack of sleep can cause serious health implications.
Encouragingly, people who sleep for at least seven hours each night reduce their risk of developing heart disease by 24-percent, according to a Netherlands study.
Tip: Be sure to get plenty of rest to avoid developing sleep disorders, heart disease, and increased risk of stroke, which have all been linked to insufficient sleep. If you can’t bring yourself to hit the hay, remember: not getting enough sleep results in unnecessary stress on the heart and body.
Bonus: Combine sleep with other healthy habits, such as getting regular exercise and eating a balanced diet, and you’ll have a 65-percent lower risk of developing heart disease, and an 83-percent lower chance of experiencing a fatal heart attack.
3. Sleep Reduces Stress
Speaking of stress, getting plenty of shuteye can make you a calmer person. Getting even slightly less sleep than you need has a profound effect on stress levels and mood, according to Harvard University. In addition to stress, sleep-deprived folks have reported feeling increasingly angry, sad, and mentally exhausted.
Thankfully, it’s not all bad news. Just one good night of sleep, in fact, can make a massive difference in a person’s mood. It’s important to note that sleep and stress can lead to a vicious cycle, as stress and worry often go hand in hand with insomnia. If you’re struggling to sleep due to stress, contact your physician.
4. Sleep Helps Mental Health
Sleep is essential for good mental health, so it makes sense that sleep deprivation is linked to depression and anxiety disorders. Harvard University reports that “15 to 20 percent of people diagnosed with insomnia will develop major depression.”
Even more disturbing is that people who experience insomnia are 20 times more likely to develop panic disorder. In fact, many anxiety disorders have been linked to sleep issues.
Tip: If you struggle with insomnia, try improving your sleep hygiene by powering down electronics, taking part in relaxing pre-sleep activities, and keeping your bedroom cool and dark. If you still can’t sleep, contact your healthcare provider.
5. Sleep Boosts the Immune System
Prone to sniffles or the flu? Getting adequate rest can keep your immune system healthy. According to WebMD, restorative sleep is key, so figuring out just how much sleep you need individually is important.
Most adults require 7 to 9 hours for optimum overall health. Regularly getting less sleep than you need leads to sleep debt, which is difficult to make up, and often leads to chronic health conditions.
Tip: If you are a parent, keep in mind that your child’s sleep needs change as they grow. While newborns need 16-18 hours, preschoolers need slightly less at 11-12 hours. School-aged children require a minimum of 10 hours, and teens need 9 to 10. Adjust bedtimes accordingly to keep your kiddos as healthy as possible.
6. Sleep Makes You a Better Driver
Have you ever spotted a distracted driver swerving in and out of lanes? He or she might have been drunk—or simply in need of a good night’s sleep.
According to the NIH, lack of sleep can cause confusion, and slows reaction time and the natural thinking process. When sleepy men and women are tested using a driving simulator, they tend to perform just as badly as drunk folks. The NIH warns that driving while sleepy is dangerous.
Tip: For the safety of yourself and others, hit the hay for 7 to 9 hours before hitting the road.
7. Sleep Can Make You Happier
Sick and tired of being sick and tired? Getting those Z’s can actually boost your mood and outlook on life. The NIH notes that most sleep-deprived people report feeling irritable, “if not downright unhappy.”
Tip: There’s no need to be perpetually grumpy. If you suffer from chronic insomnia or other sleep-disturbing conditions, contact your healthcare provider. Your happiness depends on it.
8. Sleep Keeps Your Hormones in Check
Unsurprisingly, lack of sleep can throw the body’s hormones out of whack. Deep sleep is necessary for the release of growth and sex hormones, which affects just about every system in the body. The release of these hormones helps with:
- Increased muscle mass
- The ability to repair tissue and cells
- The ability to fight infection
As you can see, keeping our hormones in check is important, no matter what age you are.
9. Sleep Suppresses Appetite and Helps Control Weight
If you struggle with constant cravings or have difficulty maintaining your weight, sleep-deprivation could be the culprit. “Studies find that the less people sleep, the more likely they are to be overweight or obese and prefer eating foods that are higher in calories and carbohydrates,” the NIH reports.
Research indicates that the body’s appetite suppressor, leptin, increases during sleep. Conversely, the natural appetite stimulant, ghrelin, decreases. And so, it’s no surprise that sleep greatly impacts appetite, energy use, and the ability to control one’s weight.
Tip: Have a tendency to nosh all afternoon in an effort to stay awake? Opt for an after-lunch power nap instead.
10. Sleep Regulates Blood Sugar
During sleep, blood sugar levels rise and fall naturally. Lack of sleep, or lack of deep sleep, impedes these natural highs and lows.
The NIH reports on one study in which healthy men were asked to sleep for only four hours for six consecutive nights. Worryingly, the gents’ blood sugar and insulin levels were indistinguishable from someone developing diabetes.
11. Sleep Helps You Live Longer
That’s right! Getting your beauty sleep can actually lead to a longer life. Both too little sleep and too much sleep can shorten the lifespan, according to Health.com.
The website references a 2010 study, which found that women from ages 50 to 79 who slept less than five hours, or more than six-and-a-half hours per night, were likely to live shorter lives.
Tip: For optimal health and a long life, be sure to get the recommended amount of shuteye.
12. Sleep Helps Blood Pressure and Reduces Inflammation
If you suffer with swelling, sleep might just be the best medicine. Inflammation has been linked to many chronic health conditions, including:
- Heart disease
- Premature aging
In an interview with Health.com, director of the NYU Sleep Disorders Program, David Rapoport, MD, explained that blood pressure and inflammation can improve with treatment for those struggling with insomnia or sleep apnea.
13. Sleep is a Natural Pain Killer
Most people don’t realize that sleep can affect sensitivity to pain. According to dreams.co.uk, getting plenty of rest can make aches and pains hurt less. This site explains that sleep deprivation has been linked to a lower pain threshold. This is good news for those suffering with chronic pain or monthly menstrual cramps.
Tip: If you have a low pain tolerance or suffer with ongoing pain, try getting the recommended amount of sleep for possible pain relief.
14. Sleep Can Improve Your Grades
Whether you’re a student, or the proud parent of a pupil, research shows that getting plenty of Z’s can lead to better grades. Dr. Rapoport tells Health.com that sacrificing sleep to study for a big exam isn’t necessarily a big deal; it’s severe sleep deprivation that impacts learning, which can result in poor grades.
Tip: Be sure to implement a regular bedtime and wake time routine for the students in your home.
15. Sleep Can Make You a Better Athlete
If you’re a sports star—or just enjoy the occasional jog—sleep can help improve your athletic performance. Multiples studies have found that athletes, including football, soccer, and tennis players, had less daytime fatigue and improved stamina when after a good night’s sleep.
Tip: Gearing up for a race or the big game of the season? Make sure sleep is included in your training schedule.