Benefits you’ll reap from a good night’s sleep

December 2012

Benefits of a good night sleep

There are many things you can do to enhance your well-being: exercise, eat right, and pop vitamins. But one of the best doesn’t require you to actually do anything. It’s sleep.

When you sleep, your body has time to heal and restore itself. Your muscles are repaired and your brain sorts through the things you’ve learned during the day.

Unfortunately, getting a good night's sleep is harder than it sounds for many people. 43 percent of Americans ages 13 to 64 say they rarely or never get a good night’s sleep during the week and 60 percent say they have a sleep problem almost every night, according to a 2011 poll by the National Sleep Foundation.

The stresses of daily life may leave you tossing and turning. Other times wanting to work or play longer can keep you from climbing into bed. Physical or mental-health problems also impact the quality and quantity of your time spent in dreamland.

Skimping on sleep once in a while is no big deal. But doing so regularly is a problem. In the short term, this sleep deprivation can affect your mood, energy level, and focus. Over the long term, it can affect your health, performance, and safety.

What happens to your body when you don't sleep well?

In the short-term, being sleep deprived can impact the following.

  • Your performance and alertness Sleep deprivation can make you less alert and reduce your performance. For example, losing just an hour of sleep one night can make it hard to focus the next day and slow your response time, according to the National Center on Sleep Disorders.
  • Your mood Sleep deprivation can leave you feeling irritable and cranky. Plus, those who experience chronic sleep deprivation are also more likely to become depressed.
  • Your memory Being less alert during the day can hurt your memory, too. You can also lose some of your ability to think and process information.
  • Your relationship Your sleep disorder can disturb your bed partner, which may cause problems in your relationship. For example, you may argue more or have to sleep in separate bedrooms.
  • Your safety Not getting enough sleep makes you twice as likely to get hurt on the job. And the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that drowsy driving is responsible for at least 100,000 car crashes a year. These cause 71,000 injuries and 1,550 fatalities.

In the long-term, more serious problems can occur. Being sleep deprived can affect the following:

  • Your risk of serious health conditions When you sleep, your body releases important hormones that help it grow, build muscle mass, and repair cells. Also, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), lack of sleep is linked to diabetes because it impacts blood sugar control and increases your risk of hypertension, stroke, heart disease, and obesity.
  • Your immune system Your immune system helps your body fight germs and illnesses. But this ability is weakened when you don’t’ get enough sleep.
  • Your pain tolerance A good night's sleep seems to improve any aches and pains possibly because extra sleep gives your body more time to repair.
  • Your waistline Lack of sleep can affect the way your body controls your appetite and uses food for fuel. And, often when you’re tired, you reach for high calorie, sugar-laden foods to give you an energy boost.

Just sleep on it

One of the best things for your health doesn’t require you to actually do anything. It’s sleep.

Yes, the consequences of not sleeping enough are huge. But many of the problems that cause sleep deprivation can be treated. Some can even be cured. See your doctor or health professional and ask for information on sleep deprivation or a risk assessment. Once you start sleeping well again, many of the possible health dangers go away.

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