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11 Surprising Health Benefits of Sleep

February 27, 2015

Health.com recently published a revealing slide show of the 11 Surprising Health Benefits of Sleep 

It is common knowledge that proper sleep habits can help your heart, mind, weight, and much more. 

According to Dr. David Rapoport, director of the NYU Sleep Disorders Program "Sleep used to be kind of ignored like parking our car in a garage and picking it up in the morning". 

 Couple Asleep In Bed

 

  • Improve Memory

Your mind is surprisingly busy while you snooze. During sleep you can strengthen memories or "practice" skills learned while you were awake (it’s a process called consolidation).

 

  • Live Long 

"Many things that we take for granted are affected by sleep," said Raymonde Jean, MD, director of sleep medicine and associate director of critical care at St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital Center in New York City.

"If you sleep better, you can certainly live better. It’s pretty clear." 

 

  • Curb Inflammation

Inflammation is linked to heart disease, stroke, diabetes, arthritis, and premature aging. Research indicates that people who get less sleep—six or fewer hours a night—have higher blood levels of inflammatory proteins than those who get more.

 

  • Spur Creativity

In addition to consolidating memories, or making them stronger, your brain appears to reorganize and restructure them, which may result in more creativity as well.

Researchers at Harvard University and Boston College found that people seem to strengthen the emotional components of a memory during sleep, which may help spur the creative process.

 

  • Be A Winner 

If you’re an athlete, there may be one simple way to improve your performance: sleep.

A Stanford University study found that college football players who tried to sleep at least 10 hours a night for seven to eight weeks improved their average sprint time and had less daytime fatigue and more stamina.

 

  • Improve Your Grades

"If you’re trying to meet a deadline, you’re willing to sacrifice sleep," Dr. Rapoport says, "but it’s severe and reoccurring sleep deprivation that clearly impairs learning."

 

  • Sharpen Attention

"Kids don’t react the same way to sleep deprivation as adults do," he adds. "Whereas adults get sleepy, kids tend to get hyperactive."

A 2009 study in the journal Pediatrics found that children ages seven and eight who got less than about eight hours of sleep a night were more likely to be hyperactive, inattentive, and impulsive.

 

  • Have A Healthy Weight

Researchers at the University of Chicago found that dieters who were well rested lost more fat—56% of their weight loss—than those who were sleep deprived, who lost more muscle mass. (They shed similar amounts of total weight regardless of sleep.)

Dieters in the study also felt more hungry when they got less sleep.

"Sleep and metabolism are controlled by the same sectors of the brain," Dr. Rapoport says. "When you are sleepy, certain hormones go up in your blood, and those same hormones drive appetite."

 

  • Lower Stress

"Sleep can definitely reduce levels of stress, and with that people can have better control of their blood pressure," Dr. Jean says. "It’s also believed that sleep effects cholesterol levels, which plays a significant role in heart disease."

 

  • Avoid Accidents

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported in 2009 that being tired accounted for the highest number of fatal single-car run-off-the-road crashes due to the driver’s performance—even more than alcohol!

"Sleepiness is grossly underrated as a problem by most people, but the cost to society is enormous," Dr. Rapoport says. "Sleeplessness affects reaction time and decision making."

Insufficient sleep for just one night can be as detrimental to your driving ability as having an alcoholic drink

 

  • Steer Clear of Depression

"A lack of sleep can contribute to depression," Dr. Jean says. "A good night’s sleep can really help a moody person decrease their anxiety. You get more emotional stability with good sleep."

"If you sleep more on the weekends, you simply aren’t sleeping enough in the week," he says. "It’s all about finding a balance.




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