Health & Fitness

9 Incredible Health Benefits of Sleeping Well

According to a survey, sleeping ranks first among the forty activities an average American does on weekends. And why not? Sleeping well has numerous health benefits. So, it is sensible to prioritize sleep instead of letting sleep debt crush the mind and body. Want to know how sound sleep leads to better health and well-being? Keep reading.

1 Sleep Alleviates Stress

Sleep relaxes the mind and body and helps your body recover from daily life stressors. In contrast, lack of sleep makes your body release the stress hormone cortisol.  High cortisol levels have been linked to many health problems, including inflammation, muscle weakness, diabetes, rapid weight gain, and easily bruising skin. Besides, well-slept folks are likely to be more productive and alert while making important decisions. Alternatively, a tired and stressed mind may lead to irritability, rash decision-making, and anxiety. Deep breathing or meditation before going to bed may help you fall asleep faster.

2. Sleep Improves Memory

Sleep supports memory consolidation, i.e., how your brain processes memories and converts short-term memory into the long term. The neurons in the brain undergo protein synthesis during this process. These proteins connect all the memories sequentially in the hippocampus, a region in the brain associated with memory, during REM sleep.  Therefore, the quality of your sleep is essential to good memory.

3. Sleep Makes You a Better Thinker

Thinking effectively (executive function) involves metacognition and complex thinking. These include introspection, decision-making, problem-solving, and planning. Alertness and memory also play a role in thinking rationally, coherently, and proactively. Taking a deep sleep every day helps improve your thinking skills and prepares you better for the next day.

4.     Sleep Keeps Inflammation in Control

Inflammation refers to the immune system’s response to protect the body from infections and diseases. However, chronic inflammation can backfire and trigger several health problems, for example, heart disease, dementia, arthritis, periodontitis, and some types of cancers. In addition, insufficient sleep worsens inflammation and increases the risk for health problems.

5.     Sleep is Good for Your Heart Health

Sleep is restorative and helps keep your heart and blood vessels healthy. When you sleep well, your blood pressure goes down. On the contrary, sleeping late or too little means your blood pressure stays elevated for longer. High blood pressure, aka hypertension, is one of the leading causes of heart attack, stroke, and other diseases. Disturbed or fragmented sleep is even more problematic if you already have a heart condition.

6.     Sleep Lowers Diabetes Risk

Sleep helps keep the metabolism healthy. That means it regulates and supports your body’s chemical processes to maintain normal functioning—for example, how the body converts food to energy. Sleep deprivation interferes with metabolism and affects blood sugar levels. It can be an issue if you have diabetes and raises the risk of developing type 2 diabetes in healthy patients. Fluctuating blood sugar levels are linked to energy levels, mood changes, and mental function.

7.     Sleep Helps Maintain a Healthy Weight

Research shows that sleep problems are likely to cause obesity. Poor sleep disturbs the balance of ghrelin and leptin, hormones that regulate appetite. Don’t forget that good sleep is one of the essentials if you want to lose or maintain weight.

8.     Sleep Impacts Balance

Sleep helps you maintain postural stability and enhances physical abilities. Studies show a link between sleep deprivation and short-term balance problems or the lack of postural control. It can lead to falls and injuries and impair the ability to perform well in sports or exercise.

9.     Sleep Is Skin-Friendly

The body repairs itself when we sleep. The healing and rejuvenation process during sleep affects the skin as much as it affects muscles and the brain. It increases the skin’s blood flow, rebuilds collagen, and repairs UV damage, thus delaying aging.

How To Know If You Are Getting Quality Sleep?

Sleep quality is a complex and multifactorial concept. However, the National Sleep Foundation’s 2017 report in the journal Sleep Health recommends the following metrics that indicate good-quality sleep:

  • Sleeping within 30 minutes of going to bed
  • Not waking up for more than 5 minutes once per night
  • Being asleep for 85 percent or more of the time you spend in bed
  • Not being awake in the night for more than 20 minutes

The report also mentioned the factors that account for poor sleep quality:

  • Taking 1 hour or more to fall asleep
  • Sleep interruption four or more times at night
  • Wakefulness for 41 minutes or more during the night
  • Sleeping for less than 74 percent of the time spent lying down

Sleep tracking could be beneficial to know if you are getting good sleep in terms of quality and quantity. An app with a sleep tracker is a helpful tool that could make it easier to identify sleep issues and disorders based on the sleep habits-related data you share.

 How to Sleep Better at Night?

Here are a few tips to help you sleep like a baby.

  • Follow a routine

Waking up and sleeping at the same time every day helps improve sleep. You are likely to fall asleep quickly when you go to bed at a fixed time daily.

  • Eat light

Take a light meal 2-4 hours before hitting the sack. Eating a heavy meal or just before you are about to sleep may cause digestive issues that could interrupt sleep.

  • Go Quiet

Engage your mind in silent instead of stimulating activities when about to sleep. This means no exposure to blue light from digital devices, no loud music or intense exercises, and no serious conversations. Instead, read, go for a walk in a park, meditate, or listen to slow or classical music.

  • Let Sex Be Thy Rescue

Instead of tossing and turning in bed, have sex if you sleep with your partner. Sexual activity induces fatigue required to go to sleep. In addition, the secretion of oxytocin and prolactin after orgasm relaxes the mind. Sex also lowers cortisol, thus contributing to better sleep.

  • Take Therapy

If you think you might have a sleep disorder, visit a therapist for diagnosis and treatment.

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