Anyone who has suffered a sleepless night knows it’s impossible to be at the top of your game the next day.
No matter how much coffee you drink, that part of you that feels drained and void of energy always prevents you from giving it your all at a morning meeting or slaying everyone with your natural wit and dazzling conversation over dinner and drinks. We know how crucial sleep is to our professional and social life, but it’s also high up on every beauty expert’s list of habits we should adopt to maintain a youthful glow and appearance as we age.
But what, exactly, can a good seven to eight hours of shut-eye do for our bodies? More than you probably think.
1. It makes you smarter
Research shows that sleep has a direct effect on memory and our ability to recall information we’ve learned. So, for example, if you’re taking a foreign language class and acquiring new information during the day, you’re less likely to recall it if you aren’t allowing your brain to take a break and sleep at night.
2. You’ll live longer
Sleeping less than six hours a night is associated with a 12 percent increased risk of premature death, according to a 2010 study. Interesting, people who sleep nine or more hours each night are at a 30 percent increased risk for early death. Bottom line: Try your best to keep it within the seven- to eight-hour range.
3. It can keep you out of car accidents
Truth: A lack of sleep “impairs your higher level of reasoning, problem solving and attention to detail,” according to Dr. Merrill Mitler, a sleep expert and neuroscientist at National Institutes of Health. Not surprisingly, people with poor sleep habits are more likely to get into car accidents.
4. Sleep can keep the weight off
Getting enough sleep is one of the major ways to help you maintain a healthy body weight. When we sleep, our bodies release hormones that control the way our bodies use energy and help repair damaged tissue. Without this hormone, we are more likely to gain weight, and “diabetic-like conditions” are even detected in people who sleep less, according to Mitler.
5. It affects our breathing
When we sleep, our heart rate, breathing rate and blood pressure rise and fall, and experts at NIH believe this improves our cardiovascular health.
6. Sleep alleviates inflammation
Getting six or fewer hours of sleep produces C-reactive proteins, which is linked to heart disease, diabetes, stroke and premature aging.
7. Resting makes you more creative
Have writer’s block? One of the best ways to increase your creativity is to make sure you’re sneaking a nap into your day. Experts say a 90-minute nap during the day — in which REM state was achieved — increased study participants’ ability to successfully answer word analogy questions and draw connections among unrelated things. Participants who didn’t sleep or took a REM-less nap showed no improvement.
8. Sleep problems could lead to ADHD-related symptoms in children
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder is a very real condition for many children. But a 2010 study suggests many ADHD-related symptoms were alleviated once children got enough sleep. The study, which followed 2,463 children ages 6-15 found when children aren’t sleeping enough, they’re more likely to be inattentive, hyperactive, impulsive and disobedient.
9. Without sleep, your body is in a constant state of stress
When we deprive ourselves of sleep, our immune systems are compromised. Tricked into thinking we are stressed out or sick, they respond by increasing the number of white blood cells they send forth to eradicate the problem. Yep, your body thinks of sleepless nights the same way you might think of a sickness.
10. Sleep keeps you happy
There is a direct connection between sleep and mood. Experts have found that even partial sleep deprivation, experienced by those who got about 4.5 hours of sleep, felt more stressed out, angry and sad. The good news is that you can snap yourself out of your funk simply by catching some zzz.
11. You’ll make better decisions
Trying to decide whether to move in with that great guy you just met? Before you even think of calling a moving company, get a good night’s sleep. “In simple terms, skimping on sleep encourages your brain to make bad decisions,” says fitness expert Jeremy Ethier. “It actually dulls the frontal lobe activity in your brain which is responsible for decision-making and impulse control. This is what causes you to make bad decisions. Also, when you’re overtired your brain’s reward centers rev up to look for something that feels good. You may have been able to say no to your food cravings when you were well-rested, but you may have some trouble squashing these cravings with a sleep-deprived brain.”
12. Two words: dark circles
It isn’t just your imagination: There’s a perfectly logical reason why a lack of sleep makes you look like a raccoon. “A lack of sleep causes blood vessels to dilate, which causes the look of dark circles,” Ethier says. “When you sleep, your skin renews itself and allows new skin cells to grow and replace the older cells.”
13. It will help keep acne at bay
If you suffer from acne or sensitive skin, sleep deprivation only increases inflammation — which aggravates your skin’s condition.
14. Sleep keeps you looking younger for longer
When we sleep, our skin recovers moisture, which prevents our faces and the delicate skin around our eyes from becoming puffy and dry, which leads to the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.
15. Sleep deprivation may lead to osteoporosis
More research still needs to be performed about this one, but a 2012 study on rats showed a lack of sleep resulted in abnormal bone marrow development and bone mineral density. Some experts suspect the same could be true in humans.