8 health benefits of sleep

If you’ve ever had trouble getting a good night’s sleep, you’ll know that it can leave you feeling cranky, exhausted, and clinging to the coffee pot the next day.

Over time, the effects of bad sleep can add up to much more than just a bad mood – researchers have found that ongoing poor sleep increases the risk of many major health problems.1

And if that’s not enough to get you to start prioritising sleep – we’ve rounded up 8 of the top benefits that stem from a good night’s rest.

1. Sleep improves your mood

A good night’s sleep improves your mood.2

When you sleep well, you wake up with more energy to take on the day. And when your energy levels are high, you’re more likely to be in a good mood. Makes sense, right?

Additionally, research suggests that sleep disruption and deprivation increases activity in the brain’s amygdala (the part of the brain responsible for regulating anger) 3, this means that a bad night’s sleep can lead to not only a grumpy mood – but it can also decrease your ability to control your emotions.4

2. Sleep reduces stress

While stress can often be the cause of your bad night’s sleep, the reverse is also true: A bad night’s sleep can increase your stress levels. 

Studies have shown that when you don’t get enough sleep, your body produces higher levels of cortisol, the stress hormone.5

So while good sleep can trigger a better mood and an overall feeling of wellbeing, poor sleep can dial up your stress levels.

3. Good sleep helps prevent weight gain

Good sleep helps you maintain a healthy weight.

There is also an overwhelming connection between poor sleep and weight gain. 

Studies suggest that there is no single reason for this. Rather, it’s the combination of the way bad sleep can: 

  •  • Slows your metabolism
  •  • Increases ghrelin, the hormone responsible for hunger
  •  • Increases cortisol, the stress hormone
  •  • Raises your risk of diabetes.6

If you’re trying to maintain a healthy weight, good sleep is essential.

4. Sleep increases productivity

Sleeping well improves your brain function, mood, and energy levels – resulting in higher levels of productivity.7

“Sleep is necessary for higher cortical function, the most important of which is multitasking,” says Michael Thorpy, director of the Sleep-Wake Disorders Center at Montefiore Health System.8

The connection between sleep and productivity is further illustrated with a study conducted on 4 major American corporations. 

Researchers concluded that employees who slept poorly felt less motivated, struggled to focus, had a hard time making decisions, and spent 3-times longer on time management tasks than their well-rested colleagues.9

5. Sleep boosts your immune system

Sleep is essential to healthy immune system function.

Getting consistently good quality sleep supports your immune system to fend off sickness, adapt to vaccines, and can even reduce the severity of allergic reactions.10

Researchers agree that there’s no one reason why sleep positively contributes to healthy immune system function, it’s most likely due to the way good sleep helps to regulate stress and inflammation. 

Additionally, when you’re asleep your body exerts less energy, this “extra” energy enables your immune system to perform those tasks critical to your overall health.11

6. Sleep can improve your memory

Better sleep supports your memory and may even lower the likelihood of age-related cognitive decline.12

Without proper sleep – we simply cannot focus our attention. This hinders our ability to learn and store memories.13

The link between memory and sleep is most likely due to the fact that when we are deprived of good sleep, the neural connections responsible for memory and learning are overworked and don't function properly.14

To improve your memory and protect against cognitive decline, good sleep is key.

7. Good sleep improves your relationships – yes, really!

Prioritising a good night’s sleep doesn’t just benefit you – it leads to better relationships.

When we’ve had a bad night’s sleep, we’re more likely to overreact.

“This can lead to more conflict and less satisfying relationships,” says Jennifer L. Martin, a clinical psychologist and behavioural sleep medicine specialist at UCLA.15

On top of this, poor sleep can make us more likely to socially withdraw from others.

Studies suggest this is likely caused by the heightened stress levels, reduced ability to read social cues, and low emotional regulation brought on by bad sleep.16

8. Sleep may help balance thyroid hormones

Your sleep quality may impact your likelihood of developing thyroid imbalances. 

The thyroid gland is the butterfly-shaped gland at the front of our throats. It’s responsible for the hormones that regulate metabolism.

One study found participants who slept fewer than seven hours at night were at higher risk of developing thyroid disease.17

The link between thyroid health and sleep quality is also supported by the fact that quality sleep supports healthy immune system function, and those with less robust immune systems are at greater risk of developing thyroid issues.18

The bottom line: Good sleep changes everything

And while there’s always going to be a natural ebb and flow in terms of your sleeping patterns, by making a conscious decision to prioritise good sleep – your mind, body, relationships will all reap the benefits.

If you’re ready to start improving your sleep, but aren’t sure where to start – here’s 6 easy sleep tips to help you get started.

Better sleep starts here.

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