Health Benefits of Sleep

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Sleep really is one of the most important aspects of our lives.
It is an essential part of our daily routines as it allows our minds and bodies to fall into a deep slumber, which means that they can really get to work on keeping us as healthy as possible.
After all, it has been proven that sleep is absolutely vital to our overall health and quality of life.
Sleeps helps our bodies to relax, it assists in cementing our day’s learnings and memories solidly into our brains, helps to repair muscle injury or illness, and even keeps our minds and bodies functioning at maximum efficiency.
There are also a lot of benefits that sleep provides, that you might not have heard of.
If you are someone who tends to struggle with sleeping, you may notice that you also struggle with your weight, learning or even your mood, which are all connected to sleep in some way.
Check out our article on the health benefits of sleep to see why getting a good night’s sleep is super important.

Why Sleep Matters

So why does sleep actually matter? Why do we need it on a daily basis?
Sleep is actually just as, if not more, important as other essential daily functions including breathing and eating.
Whilst we fall into a deep slumber every night, our bodies work extremely hard to restore the energy we have burned during the day, it works hard to rejuvenate our minds and refresh our brain power.
It also makes a huge effort to fix any minor muscle tears that may have occurred the day before, as well as repair and recover any joint problems.
When we sleep, our body also labours to grow necessary muscle tissue and regulates your bodies natural metabolism.
So yeah, we would say that sleep is a pretty important aspect of our lives and without it, we are likely to develop a whole list of both mental and physical health issues including the likes of obesity, diabetes, high blood sugar levels, depression, anxiety and much more.
We spend about one third of our lives asleep, so it is important that the sleep we get is good in both quality and quantity. Poor sleep essentially means poor health, and poor health can make it harder to sleep.
It is a vicious circle that can be avoided altogether if you take the necessary steps to ensure that you are getting an adequate amount of sleep every night.

Benefits of Sleep

There is a huge list of benefits that quality sleep can give your mind and body, and we could go on and on about why sleep is important. Instead, we will let the benefits do the talking.
Here are our top 10 benefits of getting a good amount of sleep:

1. An Improved Memory

Your mind is a very powerful tool and it actually works extremely hard whilst you sleep.
There are three parts to a memory which include acquisition (making the memory), consolidation (embedding the memory in our brains) and recall (remembering the occurances of the memory).

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Acquisition and recall happen whilst you are awake, whilst consolidation happens while you are sleeping.
Whilst you fall into a peaceful slumber, the process known as consolidation takes place.
Consolidation is the process in which your brain works to strengthen your memories, whilst also working to go over things you have learned that day to help fix them as memories in your brain.
When consolidation is occurring, your short term memories from the day before are moved into another area of the brain, and become long term memories embedded in your mind.
The more sleep you get, the stronger your learning and memories can become.
That is why if you are studying for an exam or learning a speech for work the next day, it is a good idea to go over the main points again just before bed so that the information is fresh in your mind, and your brain can work to remember these points more clearly.
It is also a good idea to spend time learning early in the morning after you are well rested.
Consolidation can happen during several different stages of sleep, including light sleep, deep sleep and even REM sleep.

2. A Balanced Metabolism

Getting a suitable amount of sleep can also ensure that your body’s metabolism remains balanced, which will help you to stay healthy and keep any excess weight off.
Research has clearly shown that your metabolism (which is defined as the amount of energy you burn) and sleep are actually highly connected, the more sleep you get, the more stable your metabolism should be.
If sleep is a struggle for you, then you probably are experiencing a disturbed metabolism.
The director of the NYU Sleep Disorders Program David Rapoport says:
“Sleep and metabolism are controlled by the same sectors of the brain. When you are sleepy, certain hormones go up in your blood, and those same hormones drive appetite.”

3. More Creativity

It’s a common statement amongst the likes of artists, musicians, writers and scientists, that they all came up with their best and most creative ideas whilst asleep.
They say they either remember snippets of their dreams which then blossomed into a new creative idea, or that their mind simply woke up with fresh ideas and creative thoughts.
The relationship between sleep and creativity has been proven many times, but specifically in one particular study that showed it participants having a more creative approach to problem solving after getting a full 8 hours sleep.
Whereas the participants that were kept awake were not as creative or insightful.
But why might you have more creativity after a good night’s sleep?
As we discussed earlier, the process of consolidation occurs whilst you sleep which cements new learned information and memories into your brain, which happens in the right side of the brain.
The right side of the brain is also where the most creativity takes place (whilst the left side is more logical and analytical). A study showed that the process of consolidation boosts the activity in the right side of the brain and the ‘synthesis of new information may lead to creative insights upon waking.’

4. More Productivity

When you are sleep deprived, your brain will not have as much cognitive power or energy, which can mean you are more prone to distractions.
Lack of sleep can make it hard for you to refocus on the tasks that you are trying to complete.
When you get an adequate amount of sleep, your brain is more refreshed, which means that you are able to focus better on tasks and complete them quicker.
It also means that you should be able to make decisions more efficiently.
In fact, research shows that a well rested brain can actually make split-decisions around 4% more accurately than a sleep deprived brain.
It has also been reported that productivity can be heightened after a good night’s sleep because chances are that you will have a better memory and will most likely be able to create tasks or recall important information faster and more efficiently.
And you should also make mistakes!
Even just one night of sleep loss can mean that you will have a response time that is 50% slower than if you had had a good night’s rest. In addition, your rate of accuracy in completing tasks will be prohibited after lack of sleep.

5. Less Stress

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Stress and sleep have a pretty complex relationship and high stress levels can actually make it harder for you to sleep.
On the other hand, if getting enough sleep, any stress you might otherwise feel will be experienced to a much lower extent. It is a kind of a chicken and egg situation that can be difficult to overcome.
What we do know is that sleep has the capability to lower your stress levels, if you are getting enough of it. Doctor Raymonde Jean, director of sleep medicine and associate director of critical care at New York City’s St Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital Center says:
“When you are tired, you are less patient and easily agitated which can increase stress. Most adults need 7-8 hours of sleep per night. Practising good sleep hygiene along with stress-lowering tactics can help improve your quality of sleep.”

6. A Stronger Immune System

If you do not sleep well, you may have noticed that you are more prone than others to common colds or episodes of the flu.
This is because, and according to Director of Sleep Center at the University of Texas Diwakar Balachandran:
“A lot of studies show our T-cells go down if we are sleep deprived.And inflammatory cytokines go up… This could potentially lead to the greater risk of developing a cold or flu.”
So just as sleep deprivation can enhance our likelihood of getting ill, getting solid quality sleep can ensure that our immune systems are stronger and more rested, meaning they can fight off viruses or illnesses more easily.

7. Less Inflammation

People who get 6 hours or less of sleep per night on a regular basis will have levels of inflammatory proteins in their blood, compared to those who tend to get more sleep than this.
Those of you who suffer from lack of sleep and inflammation can go on to develop serious health issues including the likes of diabetes, arthritis, heart disease and are even more likely to suffer a stroke.
When you lose a substantial amount of sleep, even from just one night, it can enhance the role of the key cellular pathway, which is to produce tissue-damaging inflammation.
This means you will be more prone to experiencing bouts of inflammation.
A study shows that after testing the levels of (NF)-kB, (a nuclear factor that keeps inflammation levels low), that the levels were much higher after a good night’s sleep, and much lower after a deprived amount of sleep.
This shows that less sleep can lead to a higher amount of inflammation.

8. A Better Mood

After a sleepless night, you are bound to feel more irritable, frustrated, lethargic and more prone to stress.
On the other hand, after a night of quality sleep, you will have more energy, feel happier and more motivated for the tasks of the day ahead.

According to a study that was carried out by the University of Pennsylvania, students that were made to have only 4 and a half hours of sleep per night for a whole week told researchers that they did feel like they had more built up anger, stress and frustration compared to when they got a more sufficient amount of sleep.
More sleep means less stress, which also means a reduced level or possibility of suffering from the likes of anxiety and depression.
In addition to having more feelings of negativity when you are sleep deprived, it has also been reported that people who have had less sleep are more likely to react in a negative way when something in their day goes badly.
Why? This is because that when you have less sleep, your brain has an increased amygdala activity.
Amygdala activity is a structure within the brain which plays a key role in the processing of emotions. When you have little sleep, the amygdala activity is disconnected to the part of the brain that regulates the negative emotions, and therefore makes you feel more irritable and look at occurrences of your day in a negative rather than positive manner.
In more simple terms, sleep deprivation can generally enhance a negative mood, and adequate sleep can make you feel more cheerful.

9. A Smarter Mind

Both adults and children who suffer with sleepless nights may be subject to significantly impaired brain function when it comes to learning and retaining information.
Remember that when you sleep, your brain works to memorize and cement your learnings and occurrences from the day.
When you aren’t getting adequate sleep, your brain will be unable to properly recall the information learned that day.
And also, when you are working on little sleep, your brain is slower at absorbing information, and therefore you will struggle at school, college or work.
In basic terms, little sleep will prohibit your brain from learning and retaining information, you would be much better off if you had enjoyed a quality night’s sleep.
You may often think that staying up at night to learn as much information as possible will help you to do well on your exam, or remember your presentation script at work, but actually, a good night’s sleep will more than likely actually help you more.
The idea that getting quality sleep will make you smarter is very much connected to the way that sleep also helps you to improve your memory.
In a study by Harvard Medical School, participants were trained in a particular typing skill, and then were tested on their skill 12 hours later.
The participants that were able to sleep in these 12 hours improved their skill by 20%, whereas the participants who were deprived from sleep only saw an improvement of 2%.
In other words, getting a good night’s sleep can help to improve your intelligence, skill and memory, whereas sleep deprivation can lead to a slower mind, a weaker brain and a more cloudy recall of memories or knowledge.

10. Less Pain

Getting a good night’s sleep on a regular basis can even help you to feel less pain. Let’s say you have suffered a sporting injury to your knee, it will actually likely hurt less if you have slept well the night before.
This is because whilst you sleep, your body works hard to fix any muscle tears or traumas.
That’s why when you experience this type of injury, your doctor will tell you it is important to rest.
Rest in this case also means resting your area of injury so that your body can relax and begin to fix the problem as quickly as possible.
Overall, we know that sleep is a vital part of keeping our minds and bodies healthy and happy. We also know now that sleep can make our minds more creative, as well as more productive. We know that learning becomes easier and facts and memories become stronger when we have had an adequate amount of sleep.
In addition, we are much likelier to be healthier and have a stronger immune system.
On getting better sleep, we will be less prone to developing diabetes, arthritis or mental health issues, as well as less susceptible to be affected by heart disease or cardiac problems.
We should all feel happier, be less stressed and benefit from a working metabolism when we ensure that our rest is substantial!
With all these great benefits, why wouldn’t you want to allow your body to get a good night’s sleep?
If you struggle with sleep but want to reap the rewards, then check out our article on healthy sleeping tips here.

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