Everyone knows that getting enough sleep gives you more energy during the day, but there’s a whole range of benefits that many people don’t know about. Along with diet and exercise, sleep is vital for your health—and some even consider it to be the most important factor.
If you've been walking around like a zombie since before you can remember, chances are that you're in need of sleep. Aim for 7-9 hours of sleep every night, and you too can enjoy these surprising benefits and more.
Keeps off weight
There are countless studies about the link between sleep and weight loss, and many researchers are now finding sleep to be the most important factor in weight loss, above diet and exercise. In fact, not sleeping enough can counter the benefits of dieting.
In a study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, dieters were put on different sleep schedules. In those who slept enough, half of the weight they lost was from fat. When they cut back on sleep, the amount of fat lost was cut in half, despite staying on the same diet. They also felt hungrier, were less satisfied after meals, and lacked energy to exercise. The study concluded that those on a sleep-deprived diet experienced a 55 percent reduction in fat loss compared to those who were well-rested.
Another study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that people ate an average of about 300 fewer calories per day when they got enough sleep.
Along with boosting fat loss, sleeping for the recommend number of hours prevents late-night snacking, helps you burn more calories, and helps you make healthier food decisions.
There’s a direct connection between sleep and your immune system. While you sleep, your body produces T-cells, which are white blood cells that combat viruses and bacteria that cause sickness. Without adequate sleep, you’re more likely to catch a cold or the flu after being exposed to the virus. Lack of sleep also slows down recovery when you are sick.
Heals you after exercise
Don’t solely rely on that protein shake after your workout. Getting enough sleep is the best way to recover from sore muscles and build more muscle after exercise. During sleep, our bodies undergo protein synthesis and release growth hormones that aid in muscle recovery and regeneration.
Boosts your mood
While it makes sense that people are more likely to be in a grumpy mood due to sleep deprivation (and we see this all the time), the consequences can go much deeper.
According to Dr. Joseph Krainin, Chief Medical Advisor for SoClean, the CPAP sanitizing device company, and the founder of Singular Sleep, “Poor sleep quality is associated with mood disorders—insomnia can be a harbinger of a major depressive episode, while sleep deprivation can set off manic episodes in those predisposed to bipolar disorder.”
Boosts your creativity
If you’re suffering from writer’s block, the cure might just be sleep. In a 2010 study, scientists discovered that the synthesis of new information during slow-wave sleep in the first half of the night can lead to creative insights upon waking.
Lowers blood pressure
Sleep allows the body to regulate and digest excess stress hormones, so if you don’t get enough sleep, your stress hormones remain and increase inflammation throughout your body. As a result, your arteries narrow and constrict, causing higher blood pressure.
Improves your memory
Staying up late to cram information for a test or presentation does more harm than good. Many studies have shown that those who had sufficient sleep received better results during cognitive testing than those who were sleep deprived.
Memory occurs in three stages: acquisition, consolidation, and recall. Consolidation takes place during sleep through the strengthening of the neural connections that form our memories. If you’re finding yourself becoming more forgetful, lack of sleep could likely be the cause.
Better sex life
Dr. Krainin found from sleep apnea medical literature that people with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) who use their CPAP machines regularly report better sex lives than those with OSA who do not use their CPAPs. This may be, in part, related to OSA's tendency to cause erectile dysfunction in men.
In other words, better sleep quality can really spice things up.