By Nicole Roder
We all know that we feel better when we’ve had plenty of sleep the night before. When you get to bed early and sleep through the night, you’re more likely to wake up feeling refreshed and energized. Get too little sleep, and you might feel sluggish, tired, or foggy all day long.
Despite that knowledge, most Americans are running on a sleep deficit on a regular basis. A joint statement from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and Sleep Research Society recommends that adults get a minimum of 7 hours of sleep per night. Young adults, people recovering from sleep debt, and people with illnesses might actually need more than 9 hours of sleep per night. Yet 35 percent of adults, over 85 million people, get less than 7 hours according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Here are three surprising health benefits you can experience from getting a good night’s sleep.
Too little sleep is strongly linked to a risk of obesity. Several studies have found that children and adults who get too little sleep are more likely to be obese.
One reason for the sleep-obesity connection might be hormonal. When you get the appropriate amount of sleep for your age group, your body produces a hormone called leptin. Leptin is a weight loss power house. It helps to reduce your feelings of hunger and also reduces fat storage.
But when you get too little sleep, your body produces massive amounts of ghrelin and cortisol. Ghrelin is the hormone that stimulates your appetite, causing you to want to eat more food whether your body needs the calories or not. It also promotes fat storage, which is the opposite of what you want when you’re trying to lose weight. Cortisol is “the stress hormone.” People with elevated cortisol levels not only feel stressed out, but they are also likely to gain weight. The cortisol puts your body in “fight or flight mode,” and it tells you that you need to eat to protect yourself. Yes, it’s true, having a tough day does make you want to reach for the ice cream.
Heart disease is the number one cause of death of both men and women in the United States. About 610,000 Americans die of heart disease every year, according to CDC. But you can reduce your risk by simply getting at least 7 hours of sleep each night.
This review of 15 different scientific studies found that people who don’t get adequate sleep are at far greater risk of developing heart disease or stroke. People who get 7-8 hours of sleep per night have the lowest risk of cardiovascular disease.
Getting at least 8 hours of sleep per night can boost your immune function and even fight the common cold. In one study, researchers gave people nasal drops that contained the cold virus. Then they monitored them to see how the virus would affect them. Study participants who slept less than 7 hours per night were nearly three times as likely to develop a cold than those who slept 8 hours or more.
What’s more, even a small amount of sleep deprivation can reduce your body’s production of white blood cells. Those are the “natural killer” cells your body uses to fight off disease.
So if you find yourself getting colds or other common illnesses more often than you’d like, you might want to tuck yourself into bed a little earlier.
Getting the proper amount of rest has so many health benefits, so hit the pillow a little earlier this evening—here’s to a good night’s sleep!
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