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Discover the long-term benefits of getting more sleep. Learn how it aids weight management, reduces diabetes & heart disease risks, and more!
by Tess DiNapoli
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There are few feelings in life better than waking up after a good night’s sleep.
When you feel refreshed, you feel ready to take on the day—no matter what’s on your agenda. However, the benefits of consistently getting quality sleep go beyond feeling alert on any given day. In fact, committing to improving your sleep is one of the most effective measures you can take to improve your overall health.
Here are a few more reasons why getting more sleep pays off long-term.
1. Good Sleep Helps You Maintain a Healthy Weight
Diet and exercise play a critical role in weight loss and preventing weight gain. But quality sleep is often an overlooked part of the equation.
The amount of sleep we get at night plays a major role in our appetites. Throughout the day, our body sends chemical signals to the brain about our level of hunger and fullness. Studies have found those who consistently fail to get enough sleep report having higher levels of the chemical signaling hunger and lower levels of the chemical signal for fullness. All of this causes us to overeat when we’re tired.
On top of causing us to eat more than we should, a lack of sleep also leaves us with less energy. When we have less energy, we’re less likely to exercise or take part in any type of physical activity. This makes it that much more difficult to burn off the extra calories we may consume because of the effect sleeplessness has on appetite mentioned earlier.
So, if you’re looking to shed some weight, make getting quality sleep a part of your plan.
2. It Can Lower Your Risk of Diabetes and Heart Disease
More than 60 million Americans have diabetes. Tens of millions more have some form of heart disease. And while diet is certainly one of the primary causes of both, poor sleep also plays a role.
Diabetes impairs the body’s ability to regulate blood sugar, or glucose. Those who frequently wake up multiple times throughout the night or do not consistently get enough sleep are at an increased risk of glucose intolerance. People with bodies that show glucose intolerance typically have higher blood sugar levels. If left uncontrolled, this can lead to the individual eventually being diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes.
Poor sleep is also associated with high blood pressure. Sleep allows the body to control hormones that regulate stress and metabolism. Over time, sleeplessness can lead to major swings in the body’s hormones. This inability to regulate hormone levels can result in high blood pressure along with other cardiac diseases.
3. Quality Sleep Can Put You in a Better Mood
Everyone has days when they feel just a bit cranky. In many cases, poor sleep is at the root of it.
After a poor night of sleep, you may have a short temper. Little things may quickly get on your nerves. If you’ve ever felt this way, you’re not alone.
A team of researchers at the University of Pennsylvania found people who get 4.5 or fewer hours of sleep a night for an entire week were more likely to report feeling stressed and quick to anger. Over the long term, poor sleep can cause more severe behavioral disorders such as depression and anxiety.
If you haven’t felt like yourself lately, make an effort to get a full night’s sleep.
4. It Promotes a Fuller Head of Hair
Many people fear waking up one day, looking in the mirror, and noticing they’re losing hair. While there’s no way of completely avoiding hair loss, good sleep can help.
Earlier, we mentioned the impact of sleep on hormone regulation. One of the hormones our body produces is called melatonin, which regulates sleep and hair growth. A lack of sleep can reduce the amount of melatonin our bodies produce. Diminished hormone production, combined with heightened stress caused by a lack of sleep, can eventually lead to many people experiencing the day they always dreaded.
If you’re noticing early signs of hair thinning on your scalp, consider getting a few additional hours of sleep each night.
5. You’ll Get Sick Less Often
There’s nothing worse than waking up with a scratchy throat or a runny nose. Even a minor cold can ruin your day.
Many of us go out of our way to avoid getting sick. We religiously drink orange juice to get our daily dosage of vitamin C and wash our hands several times over the course of a day. But we often fail to consider how sleep gives our immune system a fighting chance against infection.
When we do not get enough sleep, it can feel like we’re moving in slow motion the day after. In many respects, this isn’t just our imagination. Consistently not getting enough sleep alters how the immune system responds to intruders. Your body may not produce enough antibodies in response to an infection, or its response could be delayed. Make sure your body is up for the fight against infection by getting the sleep you need.
6. You’ll Feel Sharper Throughout the Day
Modern jobs require workers to make hundreds of decisions throughout the workday. Poor sleep can make this very challenging.
Over the course of the day, your brain accumulates quite a few memories. Unfortunately, it can’t hold onto all of them. Luckily, when we sleep, our brain prioritizes which memories are worth holding onto and which aren’t. In fact, some memories even become strengthened as we sleep.
Sleep not only helps us retain memories, but also primes our brains to form new ones the next day. Studies have found a sleepless night can equate to a 40 percent drop in our ability to learn new concepts the following day.
As tempting as it may be to stay up a few extra hours to get more work done or catch up on the show you’re following, don’t risk it. If you’re committed to your health, make sure to get enough sleep every night.