Getting enough sleep has a lot of proven health benefits. Over time, skimping on sleep can impact more than just your morning mood. Research shows getting quality sleep on a regular basis can help improve various problems, from your blood sugar to your workouts. Here’s why you should give your body the ZZZs it needs.
1. Weight Control
Multiple studies have shown that people who get less than six hours of sleep are prone to gaining weight. In some studies, it took just thirty to sixty minutes of additional sleep for these subjects to lose weight.
Have you ever gone on vacation and eaten more than usual but end up losing weight? It’s quite possible that the additional sleep you get on vacation helps burn additional fat.
Lack of sleep has been shown to significantly compromise the glucose system. Blood sugar levels are elevated, leaving you feeling hungry or with uncontrollable cravings.
Lack of sleep also affects hormone levels. The hormones Ghrelin and Leptin help regulate how satisfied you are when you eat. Leptin is the hormone that tells you “that’s enough, back away from the plate.” Ghrelin is the hormone that causes you to keep eating even though you are full, leaving you dissatisfied no matter how much you eat. Loss of sleep leads to the production of more Ghrelin than Leptin, making it difficult to moderate your food intake. This imbalance can very quickly lead to symptoms of diabetes, including elevated insulin which affects fat storage, blood sugar, and glucose levels.
2. Depression Prevention
Depression rates have hit an all-time high. Caught in a Catch-22, people who sleep less are more prone to depression. With depression comes an inability to sleep and to cope with the effects during the day, which leads to more depression. Symptoms of depression due to sleep deprivation and the inability to recover at night include feeling:
There are many studies that have confirmed this direct relationship between depression and lack of sleep.
3. Brain Power
It would amaze you to know the extent to which the brain regenerates while you sleep. Brain cells made during sleep are crucial to the functioning of brain centers that have to do with memory, learning, and emotional expression. Without sleep, these areas of our brains literally shrink with age, leaving us feeling more and more brain fogged and often emotionally handicapped.
4. Pain Relief
Studies have also shown that sleep deprivation creates heightened pain signals, resulting in more body pain, increased painful symptoms of fibromyalgia, and increased disability with arthritis.
5. Energy, Vitality, and Stamina
If you get enough good quality sleep, you will find that everything works better. With all other things being equal—you will likely wildly out-perform your sleepless neighbor! Increased circulation and the release of endorphins from exercise will give you more energy—more mental energy for work, better focus for concentration, and enhanced stamina for physical activity. With optimal sleep, you will experience the positive effects of nearly every daily activity and body function, which leads to optimal sleep. This is the Catch-22 you want to be in!
6. Heart Disease & Stroke Prevention
A growing list of studies points to the detrimental effects of sleeplessness on health, including heart health. Among them is a study by researchers at the University of Warwick, Great Britain, who found that individuals who get less than six hours of sleep at night face a 48% higher chance of developing or dying from heart disease and a 15% higher chance of dying from a stroke. Findings like this underscore the fact that loss of sleep can become a time bomb for your health.
7. Alcoholism & Drug Abuse Prevention
These days, it is not uncommon for people to drink themselves to sleep or take a pill for insomnia, anxiety, or pain just to unwind. The use of these drugs strips your body of necessary nutrients and vitamins and upsets the hormonal balance necessary for body and brain wellness. This is not a path you want to head down. The effects of these drugs are short-lived, which means you will ultimately need more of them. Recent studies link a drastic increase in teen alcoholism to overstimulation and resulting sleeplessness.
8. Attention Disorder Prevention
Prolonged lack of sleep can cause symptoms of Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), including the feeling that you’re running around in circles, feeling like you’re losing it, and trouble paying attention. Attention-related problems could affect adults and children. If you have ADD or you simply feel like you do, you are very likely not getting enough sleep. Sleep will support your recovery if you have ADD and resolve your ADD-like symptoms if you don’t. Either way, sleep will improve your brain synapse.
If you are a big fan of lots of wrinkles, sagging skin, and looking ten years older than you are, then keep up the late nights and enjoy the benefits of premature aging! If not, one of the biggest benefits of sleeping is for you. Women and men invest a lot of money in anti-aging lotions, creams, and injections, but continue to ignore the one (free) solution guaranteed to help them look younger, sleep.
Eating well and sleeping at night is a far more powerful anti-aging potion than anything money can buy.
10. Immune System Enhancement
Many studies have found a strong correlation between the lack of sleep and a compromised immune system. A healthy immune system is critical to your health. Getting the proper amount of sleep can help you beat sickness, especially if you catch it early. Sleeping a bit more than you normally do when you show signs of sickness or stress and maintaining a normal sleep routine will keep your immunity functioning at its highest level.
By now you should be convinced of the benefits of sleep for your mind and body and be ready to do whatever is necessary to get more and better sleep. To make it easy for you, I have designed a ten-day program for resetting your sleep routine. Follow this plan, and you’ll be feeling better and full of zest in less than two weeks!
Nisha Jackson is a nationally recognized hormone and functional medicine expert, renowned lecturer, motivational speaker, radio host, columnist, author of the bestseller “Brilliant Burnout,” and founder of OnePeak Medical Clinics in Oregon. For 30 years, her approach to medicine has successfully reversed chronic problems such as fatigue, brain fog, depression, insomnia, and lack of stamina.
This story was originally published in the OnePeak Medical Center’s Blog.