Benefits of Sufficient Sleep
Scientists have gone to great lengths to fully understand sleep's benefits. In studies of humans and other animals, they have discovered that sleep plays a critical role in immune function, metabolism, memory, learning, and other vital functions.One study simulated the effects of the disturbed sleep patterns of shift workers on 10 young healthy adults. After a mere four days, three of them had blood glucose levels that qualified as pre-diabetic.Less pain.If you have chronic pain -- or acute pain from a recent injury -- getting enough sleep may actually make you hurt less. Many studies have shown a link between sleep loss and lower pain threshold. Unfortunately, being in pain can make it hard to sleep.One small study showed: People who got seven hours of sleep a night or less were almost three times as likely to get sick as the people who got at least eight hours of sleep a night.
Improve Memory: Your mind is surprisingly busy while you snooze. During sleep you can strengthen memories or “practice”skills learned while you were awake (it's a process called consolidation). A study shows that college students who didn’t get enough sleep had worse grades than those who did. "If you’re trying to meet a deadline, you’re willing to sacrifice sleep," Dr. Rapoport says, "but it’s severe and reoccurring sleep deprivation that clearly impairs learning." A lack of sleep can result in ADHD like symptoms in kids, Dr. Rapoport says. "Kids don’t react the same way to sleep deprivation as adults do," he adds. "Whereas adults get sleepy, kids tend to get hyperactive."
Curb Inflammation: Inflammation is linked to heart disease, stroke, diabetes, arthritis and premature aging. Research indicates that people who get less sleep- six or fewer hours at night-have higer blood levels of inflammatory proteins than those who get more.
Lower Stress level: When it comes to our health, stress and sleep are nearly one and the same—and both can affect cardiovascular health. "Sleep can definitely reduce levels of stress, and with that people can have better control of their blood pressure," Dr. Jean says. "It’s also believed that sleep effects cholesterol levels, which plays a significant role in heart disease."
Sleep and Weight: If you are thinking about going on a diet, you might want to plan an earlier bedtime too.
Researchers at the University of Chicago found that dieters who were well rested lost more fat—56% of their weight loss—than those who were sleep deprived, who lost more muscle mass. (They shed similar amounts of total weight regardless of sleep.)Dieters in the study also felt more hungry when they got less sleep.
"Sleep and metabolism are controlled by the same sectors of the brain," Dr. Rapoport says. "When you are sleepy, certain hormones go up in your blood, and those same hormones drive appetite."
Steer clear of Depression: Sleeping well means more to our overall well-being than simply avoiding irritability.
"A lack of sleep can contribute to depression," Dr. Jean says. "A good night’s sleep can really help a moody person decrease their anxiety. You get more emotional stability with good sleep."
If you think the long hours put in during the week are the cause of your anxiety or impatience, Dr. Rapoport warns that sleep cannot necessarily be made up during the weekend.
"If you sleep more on the weekends, you simply aren’t sleeping enough in the week," he says. "It’s all about finding a balance.