We all love to sleep, right? There’s nothing nicer than climbing into bed, snuggling under the duvet and drifting off into a peaceful sleep. And, did you know that January 3rd is Festival of Sleep day? A perfect opportunity to celebrate the magic of a good nap, or the refreshing feeling of a good night’s sleep.
And if you needed any more incentive to grab a cheeky nap, or an early night, there are some healthy benefits to grabbing that late morning lie in …
The benefits of getting enough sleep
Adequate sleep is key to any healthy lifestyle, and can have significant health benefits. Sleep allows the body to rest, heal, develop, and can help to process memories, whereas as a lack of sleep can have negative effects on the body and mind.
I recently saw a program where a 106-year-old lady was asked what the key to her longevity was. Her answer was laughter, sleep and red wine! If that’s not a good mantra for life, I’m not sure what is, so here are the health benefits of getting enough sleep.
Reduce stress – If you don’t get enough sleep to meet the demands of today’s fast paced world, your body will get stressed more easily. We have enough things to stress us out, don’t let sleep be one of them. Deep and regular sleep will help to regulate the stress hormone ‘cortisol’ produced during a stressful day.
Improve memory and intelligence – Ever noticed how easy it is to forget things when we are tired? Sleep plays a critical role in our thinking and learning process because the brain processes memories and daily information when we are asleep. So, if you are trying to learn something, sleep will help you to remember things and process new information better.
Fight infections – when you are asleep your body produces protein molecules that help to fight infection. If you are feeling a bit under the weather, an early night and plenty of rest will help fight off that cold that’s been lingering longer than it should.
Live longer – it’s not clear why, but those who sleep better live longer and also live better. In a study from 2010, of women ages 50 to 79, more deaths occurred in women who got less than 5 hours sleep per night. Take the example of our 106-year-old lady, and start enjoying sleep and its benefits without a guilty conscience.
Reduce inflammation – Inflammation has been linked to heart disease, stroke, arthritis and premature ageing. Research shows that people who get less than six hours a night have higher levels of inflammatory proteins in their blood, so improving sleep will reduce your chances of having a stroke or heart condition.
Avoid depression – a lack of sleep can make us agitated and likely to snap at a loved one. Sleeping well means more to our mental health than just being less irritable. A good night’s sleep can help to decrease your anxiety and balance the hormones that control our moods, leaving us feeling calmer and in control.
Prevent accidents – lack of sleep can cause people to have vehicle accidents, which unfortunately happen daily in large numbers. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported in 2009 that being tired accounted for the highest number of single car crashes. Lack of sleep can affect reaction time and decision making, making it an underrated problem, and more dangerous than driving after consuming alcohol.
Perform better – studies of football players show that getting more sleep can improve their performance from increasing their sprint times, to reducing daytime fatigue and increasing their stamina. Whilst we may not all be athletes, having more energy and stamina to get through our daily to do list can only be a good thing.
Maintain a healthy weight – if you want to lose weight, you may want to consider going to bed earlier! Sleep and metabolism are controlled by the same sectors of the brain. Unfortunately, it can’t directly help with weight loss, but it can help to beat those cravings. Research has shown that dieters with adequate sleep lost 56% more body fat than those who were sleep deprived, and felt less hungry throughout the day.
So, whatever your health goals are for the year ahead, getting enough sleep would appear to be a good idea.
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"Sleep is the best meditation" - Dalai Lama