8 Ways Getting Enough Sleep Changes Your Body
Need a reason to say "no" to that 6 p.m. cappuccino? It's worth trying to turn in early once and a while, because getting a good night’s sleep has a ton of health benefits. Snoozing for a solid eight hours can help with everything from memory retention to strengthening the immune system. I know there may be an important show to catch up on, or chores to do, but if you’re prepping for a presentation or getting over the sniffles, you are going to want to turn out the lights early tonight.
We sleep for basically one-third of our lives in order to be sharp and productive during the waking hours. The first big purchase I made as an “adult” was buying a fancy mattress, because sleep is sacred to me. I’m a grumpy monster without it, and turns out there is some scientific reasoning for that. You can’t underestimate how important sleep is to your body, and you'd be surprised by all the benefits of a good night's rest. Building quality sleep habits, and a having your own relaxing bedtime ritual, will help you drift off to Snoozeville without a hitch. So turn off that TV, run a bath, drink some tea, or click on that white noise machine, because they don't call it beauty rest for nothing!
We are all familiar with the dark under-eye circles, puffy eyelids and that dull, pale complexion that happens after pulling an all-nighter. Looking in a mirror can be a bit scary after only a few hours sleep. But if that's not reason enough to clock in the full eight, chronic lack of sleep can actually age your skin.
If your body is suffering from sleep deprivation it releases the stress hormone cortisol and increases inflammatory cells. Over time, cortisol in large amounts will lead to the breakdown of skin collagen, which gives the skin its elasticity, bounce, and glow. Our body also releases the human growth hormone while we sleep. As we age, HGH helps with tissue repair, including the skin. So if you put in a full eight hours, you probably won't need that fancy lotion anymore.
Makes You Less Accident Prone
Remember in Driver's Ed when they told you to pull over to the side of the road when you feel drowsy behind the wheel? Turns out sleep can affect performance and reaction time as much as that six-pack of beer. Without sleep we are clumsy, and prone to accidents, like tripping and falling. Sleep deprivation has even lead to some of the most tragic disasters from the the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill, to Chernobyl and the Spaceship Challenger explosion. So maybe wait till after a good night's sleep to take that knife-throwing class.
In college, I would read through all my notes for the following day's test right before going to bed, because someone told me that would help me memorize and retain the information. Turns out that technique may have some credence. Research over the past couple decades has shown that brain events called Sharp Wave Ripples have been found to be involved in memory consolidation and organization, and act as a sort of instant-replay of the day's events. SWRs happen the most during the deepest levels of sleep or "slow wave" sleep. Less deep sleep could mean less memory retention, so if you have a test to cram for, make sure to catch your 40 winks.
We all love popping open a family-size bag of salt and vinegar chips. But without enough sleep it might be difficult for your body to know when to stop eating. Studies show that sleep plays a key role in regulating appetite. Sleep deprivation affects the levels of peptides that stimulate appetite. Not enough sleep is associated with a decrease in leptin, the "starvation hormone," that sends signals to the brain that we've had enough. Without it, we crave high-calorie foods (All the Big Macs! All night long!). Sleep deprivation also raises your ghrelin levels, which stimulates hunger, but doesn't leave you feeling satisfied. And on a more basic level, if you're tired, you are probably not going to have the energy to exercise or cook.
Reduces Stress and Mood Disorders
Fighting with your office mates worse than Jim and Dwight? Studies show that people who are sleep deprived are far more likely to be hostile, irritable, and angry. They are shown to react more negatively to stressful stimuli and less likely to control their bad mood. Lack of sleep can also lead to or worsen depression and anxiety. It impairs our judgement, so if you're feeling snappish after a fitful night, try not to make any big decisions that day.
Healthier Sex Drive
It should come as no surprise that being tired can have negative affects on your sex life. Lack of sleep leads to lower levels of testosterone and reduced libido. It can mess up your arousal, leading to less lubrication for ladies and more difficulty hoisting the sails for men. So, if you want to get frisky, make sure to take time to nap! Yeah, baby!
Reduces Risk Of Certain Diseases
Chronic sleep loss puts you at risk for a crazy long list of diseases from heart disease and heart attacks, to diabetes and stroke. Sleep aids your body in regulating stress and inflammation, which can lead to lower blood pressure, helping your heart stay healthy. Tonight try turning out the lights early and putting on a relaxing podcast (I enjoy the soothing monotone voices of NPR or the BBC) — for your health.
Better General Health
Sadly, getting plenty of sleep will not make you invincible. However, there is research showing that sleep will help you maintaining a strong and healthy immune system. When you live healthily, every part of the body functions better, and is able to recover faster. Sleep is the foundation to build all other good habits off of, and will make it easier to do so. With all the energy you get from delicious sleep, you will be able to accomplish anything!
Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm a bit tuckered out (*Yawn*).
Still not convinced? Check out this classic 1999 Garfield-centric campaign illustrating the importance of sleep: