Skipping a night or two of quality sleep won’t likely cause you any long-term harm, but if you suffer chronic sleep deprivation, you are setting yourself up for myriad health problems.
Sleep medicine specialist Dr. Michael Nolledo, FAASM, director at the Institute for Sleep Medicine at Deborah Heart & Lung Center in Browns Mills, New Jersey, shares the top 10 health reasons we should all get more shut-eye.
Sleep inspires insight
According to Dr. Nolledo, sleep improves memory consolidation and aids in learning. “Sleep organizes your memories as well as learned activities and makes them easier to access and apply,” the sleep specialist notes.
Sleep reduces stress
There’s nothing worse than trying to manage stress when you’re exhausted and your patience is wearing thin, especially when you’re at work. Dr. Nolledo says, “Sleep increases productivity and minimizes anxiety and moodiness. A worker with a pleasant disposition is a more productive worker!”
Sleep improves your decision-making skills
When your brain is well-rested, you are more capable of choosing the optimal course of action among different alternatives — and there are many during the course of a single day. When faced with family, financial and health issues, you can’t afford to make the wrong move. Dr. Nolledo says, “The more options that are available, the more important it is to be fully rested in order to make the best decision possible.”
Sleep keeps your weight in check
According to Dr. Nolledo, hormones that suppress appetite are depleted in sleep-deprived people. “Sleep can help you maintain better hormonal balance, which helps you choose to eat healthier foods,” he adds. Further, when you’re tired, you’re more likely to reach for food in hopes of boosting your energy, even if you aren’t the least bit hungry.
Sleep keeps your heart healthy
A good night’s sleep can boost your heart health by reducing your risk of hypertension and irregular heart rhythm, such as atrial fibrillation. If you have trouble sleeping, whether it be from stress or a physical condition, talk with your doctor to find a remedy so you don’t put your heart at risk.
Sleep reduces sickness
Adequate shut-eye optimizes immune system function, helping you ward off colds, flu and other illnesses. “For example, the flu vaccine is less effective when administered to sleep-deprived individuals,” notes Dr. Nolledo.
Sleep reduces pain
Sleep is nature’s pain reliever. “Sleep increases pain tolerance and supplements the effect of pain medications,” Dr. Nolledo explains. “If you wake up several times during the night, you are more likely to complain of body pains during the day.”
Sleep helps you keep your balance
According to Dr. Nolledo, getting enough sleep improves your balance and reduces your chance of injury from falling. “Good sleep makes you more alert and more aware of your surroundings,” he adds.
Sleep makes you a safer driver
Drifting off at the wheel causes more than 50,000 vehicle accidents each year. Just think of the devastating consequences of falling asleep while driving if you’re involved in a crash with your family in the vehicle. Dr. Nolledo says getting adequate shut-eye will keep you more awake, alert and less likely to be involved in serious accidents.
Sleep improves your sex life
Need another reason to hit the hay? According to Dr. Nolledo, healthy sleep habits will improve your sex life by increasing your libido and your mental and physical conditioning to be a better lover. “Sleep gives you the energy needed, as well,” he adds.