What Are the Benefits of Sleep?

You can have the most relaxing and slow day of your entire life, full of pampering and massages. At the end of the day, you will still need to get some sleep. You’ve undoubtedly asked yourself before: Why do I even need to sleep? And what are the benefits of sleep? Keep reading to find out.

Learning

While you sleep, your brain consolidates memories of information you gathered during the day. And to truly learn anything new, be it new words, instructions, or facts, you’ll need a good night’s sleep. While you’re out for the night, your brain transfers memories from short-term to long-term storage throughout sleep. This is true for both factual knowledge and new physical skills.

Creativity

Also, your imagination is improved by good quality sleep. This isn’t just true for artists. Any person will have a much easier time to come up with good ideas to solve problems after getting adequate and high-quality sleep. Sleep affects your ability to concentrate and getting adequate sleep will make a big difference in your ability to think clearly.

You will also be in a far better mood after a good night’s sleep, while sleep deprivation is likely to make you irritated and impatient.

The impact on our mood is not just down to the fact that you generally feel better with more energy. Studies show that the changes in brain chemistry after sleeping resemble those that occur after taking anti-depressant drugs. Although it sounds almost too easy to be true, if you work in a creative field and are struggling to be creative, you’ll be surprised by the benefits of sleep to your creativity.

Cardiovascular Health

Sleep allows the muscles in your body to get some much-needed rest – and that includes your heart. During non-REM sleep your heart rate and blood pressure drop, easing your heart’s workload. If you do not get sufficient sleep, you experience less time in this state of relaxation and over time develop a higher risk of heart disease including stroke, angina, and cardiac arrest.

Inadequate sleep puts your body under stress and leads to higher levels of stress hormones in the bloodstream. Persistent low-level stress is connected with atherosclerosis in the long run and can also put you at increased risk for other heart diseases.

General Health

The body’s immune system is much stronger when we get the recommended hours of sleep per night. When you get insufficient sleep on a regular basis, you weaken your immune system and put yourself at risk for transmittable diseases. While you sleep, your body produces cytokines -?small proteins that are important in cell signaling. Even the efficiency of the influenza vaccine is lower when you don’t sleep enough hours per night.

How much you sleep is also connected to body weight. There is speculation that the acceleration in our already fast-paced lives in recent decades has resulted in less sleep which has added to increases in diabetes and weight problems. During sleep, the body produces the appetite-suppressing hormone leptin while its counterpart in the hunger system, the appetite-increasing hormone grehlin decreases. This effect, in combination with a general increase of time we spend immobile in the office and at home, has contributed to a rise in overweight and obese people.

Apart from the usual risks that added weight brings with it, extra pounds can also affect the quality of your sleep through sleep disorders such as sleep apnea. The benefits of sleep on your general health are clear and if you want to lead a healthy life, begin with getting enough sleep.

Quality of Life

Getting insufficient sleep and especially insomnia, has a significant effect on our overall quality of life. Countless studies have proven the physical and psychological effects of sleep deprivation. A lack of sleep can even have an adverse impact on our social life, as we often lack the energy and motivation to meet with loved ones and invest much-deserved time in our partner, children, and friends. Especially people who have insomnia know of the benefits of sleep to your quality of life. Take into consideration that sleep deprivation is considered an inhumane form of torture and is forbidden in most modern countries. So why put yourself through something that even hardened criminals don’t have to endure?

Sleep Goals

Considering that proper sleep is a skill that can be learned and that we can take specific steps to improve the quality of our sleep, what should you be aiming for? What sleep goals are desirable and worth pursuing? How do we reap the benefits of sleep?

We want our sleep to be:

  • Pleasurable – have pleasant and enjoyable dreams
  • Swift – fall asleep quickly after we get into bed and try to go to sleep
  • Continuous – a guideline is that sleep effectiveness (see below) under 80 percent is thought to be poor
  • Rejuvenating – leave us refreshed, both physically and mentally
  • Uplifting – leave us in a much better state of mind

We want to lower or get rid of:

  • Sleep inertia – the time it takes to fully wake up in the early morning
  • Sleep latency – the time needed to get to sleep when very first getting into bed
  • The amount of middle-of-night awakenings
  • Length of middle-of-night awakenings
  • Discomfort – sweating, labored breathing, temporary paralysis
  • Unhealthy sleep patterns
  • Dependency on sleep medicine to fall asleep and stay asleep

The effectiveness of sleep can actually be measured with polysomnography or even an EEG. Sleep labs usually measure efficiency as a percentage (time spent asleep divided by time in bed).