We all know that sleep is important for our health. However, we may not be aware that we aren’t getting enough sleep because it tends to appear slowly over time as various aspects of degrading physical and mental function.
Aside from the obvious impact sleep has on mental alertness, memory, mood, and energy, there are some other not so obvious health links to sleep.
And so, I’ve compiled a list of some of the lesser known benefits of a good snooze:
1. Sleep can regulate the hormones that help control your appetite
Sleep loss affects the hormones leptin and ghrelin that regulate appetite. Leptin is the hormone that sends the full signal to the brain to get you to stop eating. Conversely, ghrelin is the hormone that stimulates appetite.
Recent studies have found that consistent sleep deprivation can significantly lower leptin levels, while increasing ghrelin levels. In other words, leptin levels are signalling starvation and ghrelin levels are causing an increase in appetite. As a result, the brain would tell you you’re hungry, even though you don’t actually need food. And then your body would store any extra calories you eat as fat, causing an inefficient use of those calories.
2. Sleep helps manage your weight
Epidemiological studies found that people who consistently get less than 6 hours of sleep per night are about 50% more likely than others to be overweight or obese. However, sleep quality, as well as duration, is important. Obese participants with sleep complaints tended to score high on emotional stress profiles in these studies.
3. Sleep lowers stress levels
In most people, cortisol (stress hormone) is at its highest level in the morning (providing that get-up-and-go boost), then tapers off during the day until it reaches its lowest level just before bedtime. Chronic stress, though, keeps cortisol levels high throughout the day. Stress at bedtime may make it harder to get to sleep and insomnia itself tends to raise the cortisol level even more. This all goes to show the intimate relationship between sleep and stress.
4. Sleep keeps your immune system strong
There is new evidence directly linking sleep quality and quantity with our immune system. When we sleep, numerous disease-fighting substances are released or created by the body. When we don't get enough rest, these substances are decreased making us less able to defend the body against viruses or bacteria we are introduced to. Moreover, when we do get sick, it’ll take us longer to recover because of this depleted immune system.
5. Sleep helps reduce inflammation
When we sleep, the body undergoes many repair processes, including tissue repair. Without sleep, the body can’t properly heal. A UCLA study showed that even a small amount of sleep loss can trigger inflammation in the body and cause tissue damage.
To give you an idea of what the ideal amount of sleep is, below are the National Sleep Foundation’s recommendations based on age:
Have any examples of how poor sleep has affected you during your waking hours? Share your “aha” connections below.
Jones, A. (2016, April 23). “Entwined Issues of Sleep, Stress Play Role in Immunity”. Retrieved September 02, 2017, from http://www.tallahassee.com/story/life/2016/04/23/entwined-issues-sleep-stress-play-role-immunity/83382692/
“Sleep and Stress Linked to Obesity”. (2017, August 22). The Freeman Newspaper. Retrieved September 2, 2017.