11 Surprising Health Benefits of Sleep

health-benefits-sleep
— By Kate Riley and Sandip Roy

Are you keen to know more about the various health benefits of sleep? If yes, then we promise the next few paragraphs will be interesting and informative.

Who doesn’t know that a night of restful sleep is vital to our physical and emotional health? Regular sleep, along with regular exercise and proper diet,  helps us immensely in keeping the mind and body in good shape. Dr Raymonde Jean, associate professor of critical care and sleep medicine at Mount Sinai St. Luke’s Hospital, says it well:

If you sleep better, you can certainly live better.

How Much Sleep Do We Need?

Plain and straight: Most adults need 7 to 8 hours of good quality sleep every night.

It’s no more debatable whether we can cut out on our daily 8 hours of sleep and still remain healthy, or whether we can sleep less during the week and then play catch-up in the weekends with those lost hours — all research points in the opposite direction.

In fact, Daniel Gartenberg, a sleep scientist and assistant adjunct professor at Penn State, says that sleep can be more important to your health and productivity than diet and exercise. In an interview with Quartz, he goes further to reason that we actually need more than eight hours of sleep:

In order to get a healthy eight hours of sleep, which is the amount that many people need, you need to be in bed for 8.5 hours. The standard in the literature is that healthy sleepers spend more than 90% of the time in bed asleep, so if you’re in bed for eight hours, a healthy sleeper might actually sleep for only about 7.2 hours.

Research says that the best way we can draw maximum benefit from our sleep is to go to bed and get up at the same time everyday. But if you are having sleep problems, find out the world’s best science-backed sleep hacks.

Research says the best way we can draw maximum benefit from our sleep is to go to bed and get up at the same time everyday. Click To Tweet

Today, we are happy to share a few of the obvious reasons as to why it makes sense to make regular sleeping a habit in more ways than one. It certainly would help a lot both children and adults in more ways than one.

11 Surprising Health Benefits of Sleep

1. Increases Life Span

Sleep is required for many regenerative functions of the body and mind. Those who are able to catch at least 7 to 8 hours of sleep each day have a much better chance of living longer.

This is perhaps because sleep helps in proper functioning of the immune system. It is also be helpful in promoting cellular turnover and autophagy which could help in longevity.

A 2007 research that followed over 21,000 twins for more than 22 years, concluded that there is an association between sleep behavior (most notably in sleep length) and mortality, even though the exact mechanisms were unclear.

2. Improves Memory

Memory has been shown to be stabilized and strengthened by nightly sleep, and even daytime naps. Regular sleeping helps the brain to put together the events that have happened during the day and ensure that it gets stored as a long term memory. This process is referred to as memory consolidation. It helps children in particular to retain what they have learnt at school.

Sleep deprivation can weaken our working memory. Research by Casement found that when people were asked to recognize digits displayed on a screen by typing them on a keypad, the working memory speed of those who were allowed only fours of sleep were 58% slower than those who had their full eight hours of sleep.

3. Improves Attention Span

It has been proven time and again that those who go to school or workplace without proper sleep could see a big drop in their attention and concentration. Lack of sleep could also impact short term memory and children with less than 8 hours sleep are the ones who perform badly in their academics.

According to a research published in the journal Experimental Brain Research, lack of sleep and a relative increase in the time spent awake burdens the brain’s attention system.

4. Reduces Stress

Stress and sleep have a two-way relationship. While stress can make sleeping difficult, a night of restful sleep can bring down the effects of stress.

There is no doubt that chronic stress is a killer and a silent one at that. For keeping the disastrous effects of stress at bay, sleep is an indispensable tool. A regular, proper sleep ensures that stress is kept under check at all points of time.

Of course, stress in itself can make sleep difficult to come by. And even when sleep comes, stress can make our sleep fractured and disturbed. Under stress, it’s also difficult to go back to sleep once we wake up in between our sleep cycles.

Since we’re on stress, here’s an useful and interesting article: 10 Easy And Effective Strategies To Beat Stress.

5. Reduces Risk Of Depression

First of all, depression is not a condition of blues that a person can simply will away. Rather, it is a serious disorder with persistent feelings of sadness, apathy, hopelessness, tearfulness, and thoughts of suicide, that needs medical treatment.

Depression has a complex relationship with sleep. Depression can make one oversleep, or it can make a person sleep too little. On the other hand, sleep problems can be a forerunner to depression. There is evidence that insomniacs are at a ten-fold risk of developing depression compared with those who sleep well.

While genetics could predict higher levels of depression, almost each one of us could be prone to depression. Though you need proper treatment for it, scientists have reasons to believe that regular sleep could help in bringing down the risk of depression quite a bit.

6. Helps Better Weight Management

Improving your sleep can be a vital tool to maintain your weight. Studies show that subjects who sleep less than six hours a night are more likely to have a higher than average body mass index (BMI). In comparison, those who sleep eight hours each night have the lowest BMI.

Habitual lack of a full eight hours’ sleep could lead to unwanted weight gain. This is because of the increased secretion of cortisol (our body’s “stress hormone”) which could lead to fluid retention and inhibit fat burning.

Poor sleep may also lead to food cravings after full meals due to the reason that it increases ghrelin (a hormone that stimulates hunger) secretion. It also lowers the amount of leptin (a hormone that tells us that we’re full after a meal) secretion.

Research has also shown that adults who sleep less than 5 hours a night have greatly increased risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes.

7. Helps In Muscle Building

While those gym sessions could help in muscle building, the actual growth of muscle happens when the body is at rest — while sleeping. The weight training at gym seem to break down the muscle fibers. Now, the actual rebuilding and repair of those sore muscles happen when you sleep.

The mechanism behind this phenomenon is this: During sleep, our body’s natural growth hormone is released which helps stimulate the muscle recovery and regeneration.

8. Improves Heart Health

There are research studies that show that people who have the habit of sleeping for 8 hours daily each night are less likely to suffer from strokes or heart attacks. Sleep helps to keep blood pressure within the normal range, and the heart less stressed while pumping blood.

A statement from the American Heart Association warns us that a pattern of irregular or insufficient sleep is linked to a bunch of risks to our heart health, including obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, and coronary artery disease. The risk of dying from CHD (coronary heart disease) is much raised in those who get less than seven hours or more than nine hours of sleep.

9. Reduced Inflammation

Scientists have discovered that inflammation is at the core of our sleep regulation. They have found that our body’s inflammation is often increased when we have sleep disorders as insomnia, sleep apnea, and restless legs syndrome.

Mark R. Zielinski and his team found that pro-inflammatory molecules are enhanced in the brain with acute sleep loss.

There is no doubt that sleep is considered to be one of the anti-inflammatory solutions and hence regular sleep could thwart the risk of heart diseases, diabetes, arthritis and premature ageing. It helps to reduce the production of c-reactive protein which helps inflammation.

10. Slows Down Ageing

Regular and proper sleep helps to reduce the signs of ageing — especially on our skin.

Research by Diego Mazzotti and team suggest that “disrupted sleep-wake cycle and chronic sleep restriction, highly prevalent conditions in the modern society, are strongly associated to age-related diseases.” They conclude that people who live till very old age (80 or more years) have strictly regular sleep patterns.

Of course, we must keep in mind that with age, our sleep quality declines. Read this highly interesting article published in 2017 in the journal Neuron: Sleep and Human Aging.

11. Improved Sex Drive

Testosterone is the hormone responsible for improve sex drive and its production is improved by regular sleep. Eight hours of sleep could help in more ways than one.

Infographic

Here’s an infographic on the 11 Surprising Health Benefits of Sleep:

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[If you, or someone you know, suffers from poor sleep, here’s a thoroughly researched post on sleep science hacks here: 6 Scientific Sleep Hacks.]

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Authors Bio: Kate Riley is on the content team at SupplementMart. Being an ardent health lover, she writes on almost everything about health or supplements ranging from product reviews to awesome tips on living a healthy life. Sandip Roy is Founder of Happiness India Project.


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