Top 10 Health Benefits of Sleep

Over 30% of Americans don’t get enough sleep. They’re easy enough to identify: lethargic, forgetful, and always with a cup of coffee (which perpetuates the cycle of poor sleeping habits), they live among us. We’ve all experienced this brain-power deficit after being sleep deprived, but what are the implications for our health? If you’ve been meaning to shed your caffeine crutch and start a good sleep routine, we’ll give you a little extra motivation. Here are the top 10 health benefits of sleep:

Clearer Thinking:

Studies have shown that adequate sleep results in better cognitive function and a clearer mind during the day.  The effects of sleep deprivation were studied and results indicated that sleep deprivation impairs attention, working memory, vigilance, decision-making, and long-term memory.

Adequate Sleep Contributes to Better Mood:

Not getting enough sleep affects your emotional regulation and you will be prone to feeling tired and prone to stress if you didn’t get enough sleep the night before.  In a Sleep and Mood study done by Harvard, results suggested that healthy sleep can enhance well-being, and inadequate sleep can cause more irritability and stress.  Chronic insomnia was even linked to a higher risk of developing mood disorders such as anxiety or depression.

More Sleep = Better Skin:

Studies show that lack of sleep contributes to visible signs of aging, diminished skin function, and lower overall satisfaction in physical appearance.  Good sleepers (7-9 hours of sleep) had significantly lower signs of skin aging and also reported better perception of their appearance compared to poor sleepers (5 or less hours of sleep).

Decreases Appearance of Dark Circles Under the Eyes:

Not only does lack of sleep affect your skin health, it will be visible right on your face!  In a study conducted by the Karolinska Institutet of Stockholm, Sweden, 40 observers were asked to rate 20 facial photographs of 10 individuals who were photographed 1) after normal sleep, 2) after 31 hours of sleep deprivation, and 3) following a night with 5 hours of sleep.  The study showed that the signs of sleep deprivation were physically visible on a person’s face.  These signs relate to the eyes, mouth, and skin, and include more hanging eyelids, eyes that were more red, darker circles under the eyes, paler skin, and more fine lines and wrinkles.  For overall skin health and to reduce the appearance of dark circles under the eyes, it is important to get the daily recommended amount of sleep!

More Sleep Makes You a Safer Driver:

Drowsy Driving is an extremely important issue to be aware of if you drive your own vehicle on your daily commute.  Drowsy driving happens when a driver operates a vehicle after not having slept enough.  The risks and results of drowsy driving can be devastating: drivers have a harder time paying attention to the road, are less sufficient in decision making, and have slower reaction times.

More Sleep Makes You Less Lazy!

A study done by The City University of New York showed that people who were sleep deprived or suffered loss of sleep showed a preference for tasks which required minimal effort the next day.  They were essentially more lazy and had lower performance scores when subject to solving math problems on a computer.  Adequate sleep is required if you want to have enough energy to complete your goals for the day!

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Getting Adequate Sleep Can Lower Pain Sensitivity:

Studies suggest that getting adequate sleep can decrease pain sensitivity and increase daytime awareness.  There were two groups of volunteers in the sleep study done by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine: The habitual sleep group went to sleep as they normally would, and the extended sleep group spent 10 hours in bed every night. Volunteers then had their pain sensitivity and daytime awareness measured the following day.

To measure pain sensitivity, volunteers were exposed to a radiant heat source and were timed on how long it took them to withdraw their finger from the heat source.  Volunteers in the extended sleep group removed their finger from the radiant heat source 25% slower than volunteers in the habitual sleep group, and results showed that volunteers in the extended sleep group were more alert and had lower pain sensitivity the days following the 10 hour sleep period.

More Sleep Improves Your Memory:

Many studies have suggested that one of the benefits of sleep, which happens in two stages (non-REM and REM), is associated with neuron growth and development and memory consolidation.  It is no surprise that you experience significantly more difficulty when trying to take in new information after not getting enough sleep the night before.  Additionally, getting a sufficient amount of sleep after learning something new is integral in retaining that information.

Adequate Sleep Makes Weight Control Easier:

On of the benefits of sleep has been shown to play a crucial role in weight control.  A study published in The National Center for Biotechnology Information journal suggests there is a link between short sleep duration and weight gain, particularly in younger age groups.  This study was conducted on a group of women over a 16 year period.  Each participant started out healthy and unaffected by obesity, but over the next 16 years, researchers found that volunteers who did not get adequate sleep (less than 5 hours per night) tended to weigh more than volunteers who slept at least 7 hours a night.  This study also found that short sleepers had a 30% higher risk of gaining 30 pounds over the course of the study compared to women who slept for at least 7 hours per night.

Adequate Sleep Lowers Overall Risk of Chronic Diseases:

Longitudinal epidemiological studies are beginning to suggest that adjusting one’s sleep can reduce the risk of developing chronic disease or may lessen the severity of an ongoing disease.

Cytokine is a hormone produced during your sleep which helps your body fight off infection.  Carnegie Mellon conducted a study on how sleep affects the body’s ability to fight inflammation and participants were found to be up to three times more likely to develop cold or flu symptoms after inadequate sleep.