Sleep is one of the most basic human needs. It’s unlikely you’ll forget to eat or wear clothes, but sleep is one of the most neglected areas of health. Sleep is essential for many functions of the body, from supporting vital organs, to making you look and feel refreshed. Most adults need seven to eight hours of sleep per night for full body recuperation and to reap the maximum benefits of sleep. Today we’re diving into the importance of sleep for four areas of your health and wellness:
Brains are somewhat like machines – they need to power off for awhile to re-charge. The brain isn’t actually “off” during sleep, but it is resting in very important ways. Your brain is making new connections and repairing itself from a hard day’s thinking. By getting the recommended amount of sleep, your brain will be sharper and better able to handle daily demands. Sleep improves concentration, mental clarity and focus that supports everything from greater cognition and problem-solving, to quicker response reactions when driving. Sleep also reduces headaches because you are better able to deal with stress and anxiety.
Sleep is vital for heart health on several levels. First, it supports every aspect related to the heart including stable blood pressure levels, lower bad HDL cholesterol levels, a steady heart beat and improved circulation, all of which lower risk of cardiovascular disease, heart attack, stroke and diabetes. Sleep also prevents the release of the stress hormone cortisol, which causes the heart to work harder unnecessarily. Moreover, a better night’s sleep gives your immune system a boost. Immune defense is not only essential for staving off colds and infection, it also plays a major role in disease prevention, including heart disease.
Happy Go Lucky
You’ve probably noticed that sleep makes you happier and conversely, not sleeping makes you rather miserable. Sleep is a natural mood elevator because the body has had a chance to rejuvenate itself. Whether you realize it or not, daily stressors take a toll on your entire system and it needs time to rest and recoup. Sleep allows you to better deal with life’s challenges and view the world optimistically without constantly breaking down over small issues. Furthermore, sleep helps build and maintain better relationships. When you are more pleasant to be around, you’re less likely to start arguments or project your crankiness on others. Plus, you have more tolerance and compassion towards others, which they will surely notice.
Full Body Boost
One obvious benefit of sleep is that it gives the body more energy for daily activities. That means you can attack your day with intention and purpose. It also means you will have more energy for exercise and physical activity, whether you hit the gym, play tennis or are chasing your kids around the backyard. Sleep improves many elements of exercise, including stamina, endurance, strength and your threshold for pain, as well as the time it takes for muscles to repair after workouts. Beyond energy for exercise, if you’re trying to los weight or maintain your healthy weight, sleep keeps hormones in check to advance your goals. When you don’t sleep your body produces more ghrelin, a hormone linked to hunger, and you make less leptin, the hormone that makes you feel satiated. When ghrelin and leptin are off-balance, they can not only increase your desire to eat, but increase sugary snack cravings too. Here’s another great full body benefit of sleep: it piques your interest in sex!
Making sleep a priority is crucial for your health in a variety of ways. Just like taking your vitamins and getting all your steps in each day, ensure sleep is part of your daily health routine.