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8 Surprising benefits of good sleeping habits

Based out of Dallas, Texas, Mary McCoy is a writer and social worker for disenfranchised women and children. She's a single mom, lover of Texas barbecue, and a die-hard fan of yoga

8 Benefits of a good night's sleep that might surprise you

Put down the diet pills and step away from the treadmill. If you feel like you're running on empty, your body might just need a little extra sleep to reap surprising health benefits.

Dr. Robert Rosenberg is the medical director of the Sleep Disorders Center of Prescott Valley and an expert on sleep, pulmonary and internal medicine. We caught up with him to learn the surprising health benefits of a good night's sleep. Maybe shut-eye, as it turns out, needs to be higher on your health priority list.

1. Rest to revitalize your skin

Before getting a face lift, try getting a good night's sleep. For a variety of reasons, people who don't get enough rest tend to have skin that looks older. According to Rosenberg, "Insufficient sleep causes inflammatory reactions and undermines blood flow to the skin," which can make you look haggard and old before your time. The answer? Sleep, not premature surgery.

2. Snooze for sexual health

Testosterone takes a huge hit when you don't sleep enough at night, and this can shut down your libido. Rosenberg says that you need at least six hours of sleep each night to keep testosterone at healthy levels — and blood flow and lubrication in your vagina up to par.

3. Shut your eyes to prevent infection

"Several studies have demonstrated the requirement of adequate sleep for immune response," says Rosenberg. People who sleep seven to nine hours per night have exceedingly better immune systems to fight off infection than people who get less than six hours of rest.

4. Sleep to slim down

Seriously, your time on the treadmill will do little for you if you're not sleeping enough. "We know that people who sleep less than seven hours a night — and especially less than six — have a much higher rate of obesity," he says. As a result of hormone production, you're less likely to overeat if you sleep enough.

5. Doze to prevent dementia

According to Rosenberg, people who sleep less than seven hours a night are more prone to Alzheimer's. "The glymphatic system in the brain cleans the brain of a substance called beta amyloid — which is a precursor to Alzheimer's," he said. "The system is 10 times more active when you're sleeping than when you are awake."

6. Live longer by lying down

This should stop you in your tracks: "Several studies have shown that those who sleep less than six hours per night have double the rate of death from all causes," said Rosenberg. Sleep, so you don't die young.

7. Slumber for athletic performance

Both athletes and weekend warriors have diminished athletic performance and increased risk of injury when they don't sleep enough. "This may be due to insufficient production of growth hormone during sleep, which is needed for tissue repair," says Rosenberg. Your body will naturally repair itself for improved athletic performance if you get the rest you need.

8. Cop some Z's for your cardiovascular health

Finally, "the incidence of high blood pressure, heart attack and stroke is much higher in those who sleep less than six hours per night," says Rosenberg. Love your heart, brain and blood vessels by shutting down work and going to bed already.

Want to learn more? Check out Dr. Rosenberg's new book, Sleep Soundly Every Night, Feel Fantastic Every Day, for more info about how to make your sleep habits work for you. >>

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