Seriously Amazing Reasons to Snag a Good Night’s Sleep

Seriously Amazing Reasons to Snag a Good Night’s Sleep

Chances are, someone in your life — a parent, a partner, a doctor — has told you to “get some sleep.” From cutting your heart attack risk to improving your complexion to boosting your memory, here’s why you should heed their advice tonight.

You know you feel great after a good night’s sleep. But do you know just how important good sleep is for your health? It may even save your life, according to a study published in Circulation, which found that people with insomnia have a greater risk of heart attack. And that’s just the latest reason to get more sleep.

So what is enough sleep? The National Sleep Foundation (NSF) defines it as: “A sleep duration that is followed by a spontaneous awakening and leaves one feeling refreshed and alert for the day.” The key word there is spontaneous, or without an alarm clock. The exact number of hours necessary to achieve that refreshed feeling varies, but for most adults it’s between 7 and 8 hours a night. Here are some great reasons to get enough.

lower heart attack risk

A good night’s sleep might protect against heart attack. The Circulation study, which looked at the sleep habits of more than 52,000 Norwegian men and women, found that people who have insomnia most nights of the week face a 30 percent to 45 percent greater heart attack risk.

“It’s important that people are aware of this connection between insomnia and heart attack and talk to their doctor if they’re having symptoms,” lead researcher Lars Erik Laugsand, MD, internist from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology Department of Public Health in Trondheim said. The reason for the link may be that not sleeping enough causes high blood pressure and hormonal changes.

Better Blood Pressure

If you’re worried about your blood pressure, think beyond the salt shaker. Older men who got the least deep sleep were 80 percent more likely to develop high blood pressure than people who got more of this highly restorative sleep, a recent Hypertension study found.

“When you go to sleep, blood pressure normally falls,” study author Susan Redline, MD, professor of sleep medicine at Harvard Medical School, said. “A lot of that fall occurs during slow-wave sleep.” If you don’t get enough sleep, your blood pressure doesn’t have the natural opportunity to dip at night, and over time this can contribute to elevated levels.

Trimmer Waistline

Do you really need a sleep diet? Many experts would say yes: Skipping sleep can sabotage your weight loss efforts by messing with your metabolism. Research shows that people who don’t get enough sleep have lower levels of leptin (the “satiety” hormone) and higher levels of ghrelin (the “hunger” hormone). The combination is what makes you feel ravenous — especially for sugary foods for instant energy — when you’re exhausted.

Dieters who slept between 6 and 8 hours a night lost more weight while following a diet plan than people who got more or less sleep, a recent study showed. Getting enough sleep will boost your energy, making it easier to commit to a workout, a recent survey showed.

More Energy

It’s no coincidence that it’s easier to get out of bed after a solid night’s sleep: 32 percent of Americans say the best thing about getting a good night’s sleep is improved physical energy, a Better Sleep Council survey found.

Because adequate sleep keeps your metabolism hormones balanced, you’re also more likely to choose healthy foods with fiber and protein (a breakfast of oatmeal and fruit, say, instead of a blueberry muffin) which steadies your blood sugar and sustains energy levels all day long.

Happier Mood

It’s not too surprising that you’re more cheerful (and less grumpy) after a restful night. But sleep plays an even more integral role in your emotional health than you might realize.

For example, there’s a complicated relationship between insomnia and depression, which experts are still trying to understand. People with insomnia may have a 10-fold increase in depression risk compared to healthy sleepers, according to the National Sleep Foundation. And people with sleep apnea are also more likely to experience depression than people without the condition, according to Stanford research.

Lower Diabetes Risk

When it comes to managing diabetes, diet changes may be the first thing that comes to mind, but people concerned about their blood sugar should look at their sleep patterns. You can develop resistance to insulin — a precursor to diabetes — after just days of restricted sleep. Other research has found sleep duration and quality are important predictors of hemoglobin A1C, a blood sugar marker. Hormonal changes that occur when you skimp on sleep can make you more prone to developing pre-diabetes or diabetes.

Getting too little sleep is also related to weight gain, which is another risk factor for type 2 diabetes.

Better Marriage

For better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, after a good night’s sleep or a restless one … Okay, that last line may not be part of traditional marriage vows, but maybe it should be. Researchers found that wives who had trouble sleeping were more likely to be irritable and critical of their spouses the next day, according to a recent study. Strangely, husbands’ sleep habits didn’t affect the couples’ interactions, in this particular study.

Since problems in bed — like snoring, blanket hogging, and different bedroom temperature preferences — can have a major influence on sleep quality and quantity, this study highlights the importance of resolving such sleep issues with your spouse.

Better Sex Life

If you had to pick between a good night’s sleep or a toe-curling romp, would it be a tough decision? Making time for sleep may actually improve your libido. In one 2011 study, patients with chronic sinusitis had improved sleep and sex drive after surgery to improve their symptoms. In another, men who didn’t get enough sleep had lower levels of testosterone, a hormone necessary for sexual desire and performance.

To make time for both sleep and sex, consider heading to bed early and getting busy with your partner in the morning; circadian rhythm research shows this is the optimal time of day to be intimate.

Glowing Skin

Grandma was right: There is such a thing as beauty sleep. During deep, restorative sleep, your body’s cells show increased production and reduced breakdown of proteins, processes that repair damage from skin-harming culprits such as ultraviolet rays and stress, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS). Pushing back your bedtime may help prevent those dark under-eye circles.

Stronger Immune System

You’re less likely to catch a cold if you’re well-rested, according to the NINDS, which recommends sleep as a way to help the body conserve energy and other resources the immune system needs to fight off infections. One well-knownArchives of Internal Medicine study from 2009 found that people who got less than 7 hours of sleep each night were three times likelier to develop a cold after they were exposed to a virus compared to people who slept longer.

Less Stress

In a National Sleep Foundation survey, more than 85 percent of respondents who got inadequate sleep said it affects their mood, 72 percent said it affects their family life or home responsibilities, and 68 percent said it hinders their social lives.

But you didn’t need a poll to tell you that you’re better able to tackle the day’s challenges when you’re well-rested, compared to when you’re irritable due to lack of sleep. Plus, that extra stress contributes to a vicious cycle, in which anxiety keeps you from falling asleep at night, starting another zany day in the morning.

Better Brainpower

There is some truth to”sleep on it.” People perform better on memory tests after they’re allowed to sleep between learning and testing. Different stages of sleep are necessary to improve different kinds of memory: Slow-wave sleep helps declarative memory (recalling specific facts, like the capital of North Dakota) and REM sleep seems to be more helpful for procedural learning (remembering how to do something, like ride a bike), according to Harvard University’s division of sleep medicine.

Perhaps nothing else proves the effect of sleep on your brainpower like the 100,000 car crashes every year related to drowsy driving, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

Fewer Aches and Pains

Not sleeping enough could hurt you — literally. A 2007 study published in the journal SLEEP found a connection between disrupted sleep and more incidences of pain among otherwise healthy women, which indicates that getting enough sleep may help people better cope with chronic pain.

“This study finds that fragmented sleep profiles, akin to individuals suffering from middle of the night insomnia, health care workers on call, and parents caring for infants, alter natural systems that regulate and control pain, and can lead to spontaneous painful symptoms,” study author Michael T. Smith, PhD, told Science Daily.

Lower Cancer Risk

Here’s some news to make you crawl under your covers: A study published earlier this year in the journal Cancer found that people who averaged fewer than six hours of sleep each night had an almost 50 percent increase in risk of colorectal adenomas, a precursor to cancerous tumors, compared to those who clocked in at seven hours a night. One study author said the risk increase was comparable to that of having a first-degree relative with colon cancer. Although more research is needed on the sleep-cancer link, some experts think that the hormone melatonin, which has been linked to DNA repair, may play a role.