There’s no question that getting a good night’s sleep helps you wake up refreshed and energized, ready to take on the day. Sleep does more than make you feel less tired, though. When it comes to your overall well being, sleep correlates closely to both physical and mental health. Virtually no aspect of your life is unaffected by sleep, so making sleep a priority, learning to recognize the signs of poor sleep hygiene, and getting help when necessary can possibly do more for your overall well-being than anything else.
Here are 10 areas where getting adequate sleep can make a significant difference in your life.
Getting plenty of sleep is an important factor when it comes to avoiding getting sick. Sleep deprivation increases the number of inflammatory mediators in your body, essentially making it easier for viruses and bacteria to take hold and harder for your body to fight infection. Not only that, but research indicates that getting adequate amounts of good quality sleep reduces your risk of coming down with a cold.
Keeping your heart healthy requires exercise, a healthy diet, and plenty of sleep. Even just getting an hour or two less sleep than recommended (6-7 hours per night) can contribute to calcification of the arteries, which increases the risk of a heart attack and stroke. Sleep disturbances such as sleep apnea are also linked to cardiovascular diseases including high blood pressure, irregular heartbeats, and an increased risk of stroke.
Having trouble managing your weight? It could be connected to your sleep patterns. Multiple studies have connected poor sleep quality to weight gain, finding that the less you sleep, the more likely you are to be carrying extra pounds. Not getting enough sleep can make you crave foods that are higher in fat and carbohydrates, as your body attempts to store energy, and can also disrupt your hunger hormones, making it more difficult to feel full and increasing your hunger. Taken together, these effects are a recipe for obesity.
Disrupted or inadequate sleep can also affect how well your body processes glucose. Not getting enough sleep makes it more challenging for your body to maintain healthy blood sugar levels, increasing your risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. By the same token, getting good sleep can help reduce your risk of diabetes and improve your blood sugar control.
Anxiety and sleep deprivation go hand in hand: Anxiety can make it harder to sleep, and not getting enough sleep exacerbates anxiety. Making sleep a priority, though, and talking with your doctor about sleep problems, can help you manage your anxiety and calm your mind.
Everyone has had nights where they don’t get enough sleep and knows that it can cause grumpiness, irritability, and an overall bad mood. Prolonged sleep deprivation is highly detrimental to your overall emotional well-being, though, and can have significant effects on your relationships and communication skills. Getting enough sleep also helps you feel more optimistic — and optimistic people sleep better.
Sleep deprivation is a leading cause of workplace accidents and contributes to thousands of vehicle accidents and deaths every year. Not only is there a risk of falling asleep at an inappropriate time, but sleep deprivation increases the risk of errors and risk-taking behaviors, and reduces reaction times and critical thinking abilities — the important skills required to make adjustments that improve safety. Your chances of suffering a severe injury increase exponentially when you aren’t well-rested, underscoring the importance of sleep.
Studies reveal that not getting enough sleep disrupts pain signals in your body, making you more sensitive to pain. Although scientists aren’t sure exactly why, they speculate that sleep deprivation increases inflammation in your body, which decreases your overall pain tolerance. This finding has significant implications for people living with chronic pain, and how well painkillers work, so it’s important to discuss your sleep patterns with a doctor if you have pain.
During sleep, your brain makes connections between new information and existing memories, so when you aren’t getting enough rest, those connections decrease. This affects your memory, as well as your ability to be creative, make better decisions, and solve problems. Sleep deprivation is associated with poor performance at work and school, in large part because of this reduced cognitive function. Getting sleep helps support your long-term memory function and ability to synthesize new ideas, improving your overall performance.
Finally, getting plenty of sleep contributes to an overall healthier appearance. You’ve probably heard the expression “beauty sleep,” but it’s not just a cliche. Sleep helps improve your skin; not only are you less prone to acne, but your cells produce more collagen during sleep, helping reduce wrinkles. Increased blood flow during sleep also helps your skin look healthy and have a better glow, and reduces puffiness and dark circles around the eyes. Better blood flow also helps your hair grow healthier and stronger.
Ultimately, few things have as much an effect on your overall health and well-being than sleep. If you struggle to get enough sleep, talk with your doctor and make changes to support better sleep quality. You’ll feel a difference in every aspect of your life.