The Little-Known Benefits of Sleeping

Sleep is an extraordinary state of being that deserves more attention. Most of us already know the benefits but tend to place our focus elsewhere in the humdrum of everyday life. 

It is a beautifully complex biological function that helps repair damage and renew cells. During sleep, the body flushes out toxins and waste, balances hormones, and so much more. Beyond the physical health benefits, sleep supports several aspects of brain functions, facilitating mental health and long-term wellness.

While most of us are aware of these core benefits, recent scientific studies provide further insights to demonstrate how valuable sleep is.

Sleep Helps Solidify Learning

Sleep has significant benefits for the brain. When a body is resting, the brain can solidify previously gained information and transform it into learning. In essence, a person is learning even when taking a snooze.

Sleep and Memory Formation

Insightful research indicates that the amount of sleep impacts how the brain consolidates learning into memory. Resting helps recharge brain activities and forms new activity on dendritic branches that are responsible for learning. The study provides evidence on the connection between sleep and memory.

Sleep and Better Mental Health

Poor sleep quality can have adverse effects on mental health, particularly depression. Studies show that people who sleep less than 6 hours per night have a higher genetic risk for symptoms of depression. According to estimates, 90 percent of people with depression complain about sleep quality. A well-rested body significantly improves overall well-being and feelings of happiness.

Sleep Enhances Recall and Productivity

Sufficient rest enhances information recall and improves focus. A survey in Belgium demonstrated how university students who slept at least 7 hours achieved 10 percent higher grades than those who did not. Similarly, a study on medical interns shows that those on a work schedule of more than 24 hours committed 36 percent more critical medical errors. While most of us may have left our test-taking or internship days behind, studies like these reinforce the connection between adequate sleep and recall, especially at work.

Sleep and Immunity

Well-rested people have better immunity against illnesses like flu and colds. Getting enough sleep reduces body inflammation and protects your body from a host of other anomalies. 

A study of Finnish workers found conclusive data that well rested people take fewer sick days compared to their sleep-deprived counterparts. Interestingly, their research showed that sleeping under 6 hours or over 9 hours could lead people to take more sickness-related absences from work.

Sleep and Weight Loss

People attempting to lose weight should not only alter their diet and exercise regimen but their sleep patterns. As rest plays a critical role in boosting metabolism, weight gain and irregular sleep patterns have strong links. Additionally, sleep deprived people tend to consume higher-fat foods and pile on calories. The longer the hours, the more time there is to eat.

Sleep Affects Emotions and Social Interaction

Irregular sleep patterns also affect people’s ability to make social and emotional connections. Several facial recognition tests found that sleep-deprived people had a reduced ability to process expressions of joy or anger, which reduces their ability to interact socially. Sleep helps us understand important social cues and getting a read on people’s emotions. 

Tips for Better Sleep

If you are looking to prioritize sleeping better, there is no time like the present to start. Here are some ways to get the recommended sleep duration of 6-9 hours.

  • Seek bright or natural sunlight during the day to keep your circadian rhythm (body clock) healthy. This improves daytime energy, as well as night-time sleep quality
  • Avoid caffeine in the later hours of the day. Try decaffeinated coffee if you cannot do without it
  • Try and maintain a regular sleep schedule. Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day
  • Reduce alcohol consumption at night. Drinking before bedtime can negatively affect sleep and hormones
  • Optimize your sleep environment by minimizing noise and light. Limit blue light exposure at night. Smartphones and computers emit large amounts of blue light and can affect the quality and duration of sleep