Sleeping is probably that one naturally occurring bodily function which is loved, envied and even abused by a lot of us. A few hours of sleep are pretty important when it comes to almost everything. It helps us relax, is vital for our moods, keeps our immune system in-sync and so on.
The list of benefits seems obvious, but scientists have always been intrigued to know how it REALLY helps us (because that’s what they do). Be it sleeplessness or inability to fall asleep at time, the damage is instant. But a good night sleep or even a good nap can aid you in a lot of ways.
Here are some health benefits of a good night’s sleep according to science:
1. Increased Brain Power
The first at foremost organ that gets affected by both irregular and just sleep patterns is the brain. After a long day, your brain needs time to recover and how does this happen? through sleep. While the brain never completely stops working, the activity levels during your slumber decrease. And If your brain doesn’t get that break, it will pretty much fry up.
According to a study conducted on zebra fish, irregular sleep patterns had visible impact on their brains and daily functioning. Since these zebra fish larvae are transparent, the scientists could see their brains while they were sleeping and were sleep-deprived.
The study concluded that without the required synapse reduction, the brain would not have the ability to continuously take in and store new information, which means that sleeping is vital for more brain power.
2. Improved Memory and Learning Abilities
Since the much necessary affair between the brain and sleep is being discussed, another important part where sleep acts like a hero is the memory department. A refreshed brain is bound to be more quick in picking up and processing information. Another surprising benefit, which has been discovered recently is that during sleep, your memories and “practice” skills are further strengthened.
According to scientists, if you want to learn something new, practice it a few times and sleep on it. During your sleep, your brain will consolidate all that information, thus giving you more adaptability over it. Hence, if you have always wanted to be a tennis player, chances are you will perform better at it after due practice and sleeping.
3. Better Emotional Responses
If your co-workers seems to be throwing in a random temper tantrum, be sure to ask them if they slept well because sleep and mood swings go hand in hand. Poor quality and lesser quantity of sleep both cause feelings of anger, depression, anxiety and general restlessness to erupt.
University of Pennsylvania researchers found that subjects who were limited to only 4.5 hours of sleep a night for one week, reported feeling more stressed, angry, sad, and mentally exhausted. When the subjects resumed normal 7-hour sleep pattern, they reported a dramatic improvement in their moods.
Apparently with lack of sleep, our brain can not maintain the in-build neutrality sense and our cognitive processing declines, which causes us to act differently. So if you are experiencing some random outbursts, be sure to sleep on it first.
4. Improved Physical Health
With the heart and mind of the way, let’s talk about physical body. There is no big science in knowing that good sleep yields a positive effect on the body. Poor sleep affects your brain, your moods and obviously your physical well being. In many researches, health conditions like high blood pressure, obesity and cardiovascular diseases have been linked to poor sleep.
Scientists believe that in the pyramid of health, exercise and nutrition have a rightful partner, and that is sleep. For instance, several studies have shown that people who reported sleeping fewer than five hours per night were at a increased risk of having or developing type 2 diabetes. On the positive end, studies have also found that improved sleep can positively influence blood sugar control and reduce the effects of type 2 diabetes. In short, your sweet sleep can give your body the break it needs and combat with health issues too.
5. Getting Muscles is Easier
This one is for the guys who work hard to get those muscles popping. Let’s put it this way- if you don’t sleep, you won’t build any muscle. This is because when you sleep, your body goes into recovery mode. This causes all the tears in the muscles to repair and heal the damage done. The sores you feel are the indication of damage done to the muscle(which heals overtime).
Secondly, as you sleep on, your body releases growth hormone which causes growth (of course). This is why you see babies sleep for 12-18 hours for they are growing . There’s a reason why all the fitness experts recommend getting proper sleep and 5 days of workout, and now you know why.
6. Helps in Maintaining Weight
Just like your growth, the adequate rest plays an important role in regulating metabolism and related hormones. The scientific reason behind this apparent weight gain that occurs when one is sleep deprived is the presence of excess Ghrelin.
Ghrelin is the hormone which makes us want to eat. When one is sleep deprived, the hormones level fluctuate, due to affected performance of the brain, which causes Ghrelin to go up. As a result, we tend to eat more when we are tired. Plus, the more you stay awake the more energy you need. So basically the next time you stay up all night, understand that your body is not craving “food” but sleep.
7. A Longer and Better Life
Scientifically, every segment of the human population has their own range of healthy sleeping hours. For instance, in case of babies, 12-18 hours of sleep is needed by their bodies, in case of teenagers 8-9 hours and so on. While these are the normal and needed hours of rest, anything above and below this is dangerous and can lead to premature death.
A lengthy study conducted over a period of 25 years, in the UK revealed these astonishing facts. According to the observations made, those who slept for less than 6 hours were 12 percent more at a higher risk of experiencing premature death. Similarly, for people sleeping more than 8-9 hours, the number was found to be 30 percent. Researchers also claimed that people who changed their sleeping time, by reducing it to five hours to less were 1.7 times more likely to die due to unknown causes.
8. Beauty Sleep is for Real
It’s true, the more soundly you sleep, the more beautiful you will be. This is because of the body’s ability to heal while its on rest mode. Just like other parts of the body, as you sleep on your skin tends to heal itself too. The skin undergoes many changes including producing more collagen, which means less wrinkles and more repair. The blood-flow causes the face to appear more fresh while busting the dark circles away.
And it is not just the skin, if you get yourself the rightful rest that you deserve, you will actually note how your hair changes overnight too! Hair loss, breakage, damage and growth all get affected by lack of sleep, which is worsened by the addition of cortisol (the hormonal word for STRESS). When you sleep, the cortisol levels decrease, the blood flow goes up and your hair get the nutrients it needs to repair and grow.
With all the in-depth benefits of sleep jotted down, it’s time to get yourself to relax and snooze off. Although many people suffer from sleeplessness, but mostly its because of our own behaviors (and smartphones). Time to give up the blue light and get some good Zzz’s.