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8 Facts You May Not Know About Catching Your Zzzs

Posted April 19, 2021

Woman sleeping in bed

In today’s fast-paced world, sleep often takes a back seat. But, what many of us may not realize is good sleep is one of the pillars of good health, along with eating right and exercising regularly.

Sleep requirements vary by age, genetics and other factors, but the average adult should get between seven to nine hours of sleep every night for peak health benefits, according to the National Sleep Foundation.

Find out 8 facts you may not know about the benefits of good sleep and how sleep debt may be a contributing factor to poor health.

1. Your overall health depends on it

Research has shown that getting enough shuteye is essential to your physical and mental health. Here are just a few of many health benefits:

  • Healthier Heart: While sleeping, your blood pressure falls and gives your heart a chance to rest. It also allows your blood pressure to regulate. When you cut that time short, your blood pressure stays higher longer during each 24-hour period. Over time, high blood pressure can lead to heart disease or stroke.
  • Balanced Blood Sugar: During your deepest sleep, your blood glucose levels drop. Without your body’s time to rest and reset, it will have a harder time responding to your cells’ needs and blood sugar level. In fact, studies have shown sleep deprivation can cause prediabetes in healthy adults.
  • Immune Boost: Chronic lack of sleep can actually change the way your immune system works and affect your body’s fighting power. Therefore, your cells may not react to harmful bacteria and viruses as quickly, causing you to get sick more often.
  • Weight Control: When you’re sleep-deprived, it affects the hormones in your brain that regulate appetite. Lack of sleep not only knocks your appetite hormones out of balance, causing you to eat more, but you also have less motivation to get moving. It’s a recipe for weight gain.
  • Better Mood: Adequate sleep allows you to hit the reset button, be more positive and be better prepared to meet the day’s challenges. When that time is cut short, you tend to have more negative emotional reactions. In fact, some studies point to an increased risk for mood disorders, such as anxiety and depression, with chronic lack of sleep.

2. Sleep affects brain function

When you don’t get a good night’s rest, it interferes with brain function, including concentration and productivity. It’s more difficult to focus when you’re tired and commit new information to memory.

In addition, without adequate sleep, your brain doesn’t have enough time to store memories so you can recall them later on. In essence, your brain needs time to catch up so you’re ready for the next day.

3. Sleep impacts athletic ability

A good night’s rest sets you up for your best performance. Not getting enough sleep robs your body of energy and adequate time for muscle repair. Not to mention, it zaps your motivation to keep on going, whether you’re crossing the finish line or increasing the incline on a treadmill.

4. Your diet could be disrupting good sleep

A diet heavy in caffeine can disrupt sleep by stimulating the brain and causing insomnia, while alcohol can make you drowsy and help you fall asleep. However, alcohol can reduce the deeper stages of sleep, which are vital to a good night’s rest.

In addition, a diet high in fiber may lead to deeper sleep, while a diet high in saturated fats or sugar can reduce your time in the deep-sleep phase.

5. About 40 million Americans suffer from sleep disorders

Sleep disorders, such as insomnia, narcolepsy and sleep apnea, prevent you from getting a good night’s rest on a regular basis. This sleep deprivation can lead to problems at work, school, driving and your overall health.

Yes, everyone has bouts of troubled sleep from time to time, but if your sleep is disrupted routinely, it might be time to talk to your doctor about a potential sleep disorder.

6. Lack of sleep could shorten your life span

Some sleep studies in animals have shown that not getting enough REM sleep can shorten lifespans.  

Not to mention, drowsy driving is as dangerous as driving drunk. Each year, driving while tired causes 100,000 crashes and 1,500 deaths, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

7. Women may need more sleep than men

For a woman, getting enough sleep is especially important. The negative affects of sleep deprivation, like heart disease, diabetes and stress, are more pronounced in women than men, most likely due to hormones.

Sleep has a powerful influence on the body’s hormonal system. A lack of sleep causes a high level of stress hormones, which can affect a woman’s menstrual and ovulation cycle, and in turn, her fertility cycle.

8. Sleep quality is just as important as sleep quantity

To feel your best, don’t just focus on the number of hours of sleep, but also the quality of sleep you get each night. You might be sleeping an adequate amount of time each night, but if you don’t reach a deep enough stage of sleep, you won’t feel well-rested and refreshed in the morning. Waking up frequently in the night can prevent you from reaching these critical stages of sleep.

Sleep quality refers to falling asleep after 10 to 15 minutes and sleeping soundly through the night with no more than one awakening. Poor sleep quality can be characterized by trouble falling asleep and staying asleep, restlessness and early awakenings.

Because each person is different, you are the judge as to whether you feel alert in the morning or whether you need to make some adjustments to your sleep schedule. A telltale sign that you’re sleep deprived is if you fall asleep right away after hitting the pillow. 


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