Sleep is an essential function that allows your body and mind to recharge, leaving you refreshed and alert when you wake up. It also helps the body remain healthy and stave off diseases. Without enough sleep, the brain cannot function properly. This can impair your ability to concentrate, think clearly, and process memories.
Most of us need around 8 hours of good-quality sleep a night to function properly – but some need more and some less. What matters is that you find out how much you need and then try to achieve it.
As a general rule, if you wake up tired and spend the day longing for a chance to have a nap, it’s likely that you’re not sleeping enough.
So what if I don’t get a good nights sleep?
Many of us have experienced the fatigue, short temper and lack of focus that often follow a poor night’s sleep. An occasional night without sleeping makes you feel tired and irritable the next day, but it won’t harm your health.
After several sleepless nights, the mental effects become more serious. Your brain will fog, making it difficult to concentrate and make decisions. Your risk of injury and accidents at home, work and on the road also increases.
Here are 5 ways in which sleeping can boost your health:
- Sleeping is good for your immune system! If you seem to catch every cold and flu that’s going around, your bedtime could be to blame. Prolonged lack of sleep can disrupt your immune system, so you’re less able to fend off bugs. Getting at least 8 hours of sleep can improve your immune function and help fight the common cold.
Sleeping is good for your mental health! Given that a single sleepless night can make you irritable and moody the following day, it’s not surprising that chronic sleep deprivation may lead to long-term mood disorders like clinical depression and anxiety disorders. When people with anxiety or depression were surveyed to calculate their sleeping habits, it turned out that most of them slept for less than 6 hours a night.
- Sleeping keeps you slim! Sleeping less may mean you put on weight! Studies have shown that people who sleep less than 7 hours a day tend to gain more weight and have a higher risk of becoming obese than those who get 7 hours. This is thought to be because sleep-deprived people have reduced levels of leptin (the chemical that makes you feel full) and increased levels of ghrelin (the hunger-stimulating hormone).
- Sleeping is good for your heart! Long-standing sleep deprivation seems to be associated with increased heart rate, an increase in blood pressure and higher levels of certain chemicals linked with inflammation. Sleeping less than 7–8 hours per night is linked to an increased risk of heart disease and stroke.
- Sleeping can have an effect on inflammation! In fact, sleep loss is known to activate undesirable markers of inflammation and cell damage. Poor sleep has been strongly linked to long-term inflammation of the digestive tract, in disorders such as inflammatory bowel disease.
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