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Health Benefits of Sleep

We are all aware that sleep is “good for us”, but how does the one-third of our lives spent sleeping really benefit us? Chronic sleep deprivation can result in a number of harmful disorders as well as making overall life quality suffer.

1. Restoration of Memory

Sleep is vital to the formation and recall of memories. During REM sleep, dreams are used to help consolidate memory. 1 Without the vital rest the brain needs to create memories, retention and recall of events and information will be severely affected. For instance, staying up all night to cram for an exam will result in short term recall, but no long term memory because the brain never had a chance to store the information as a memory.

2. Prevent Sickness and Flu

Sleep deprivation can weaken the immune system making it not as capable of fighting disease such as influenza. Lack of sleep can alter the functioning of the body’s white blood cells used to fight infection. Therefore, lack of sleep can lead to various other sicknesses further preventing sleep.

3. Helps to Fight Obesity and Increase Metabolism

Obesity, a growing problem in the world, has been shown to have a connection with sleep deprivation. Sleep deprivation causes the body to crave foods with higher calorie and carbohydrate content to make up for lack of energy. 1 Lack of sleep also decreases metabolism at a rate that mimics metabolic rates of aging. As sleep affects obesity, obesity also affects sleep. Many of those suffering from sleep apnea are overweight and fix their sleep problems by exercising.

4. Restoration and Repair of the Body and Mind

After exercising or exerting yourself in any way, the body’s muscles become tired and need recovery time. Sleep is the time your body and mind use to repair muscles and tissues and improve the body’s functioning. By giving yourself the adequate amount of sleep, you are also restoring your body to its optimal state of functioning.

5. Reduces Stress and Stress-related Symptoms

Stress can bring on severe mental and physical problems such as depression, cardiovascular disorders and high blood pressure. Studies have shown that sleep disorders, such as sleep apnea, that result in fragmented sleep can cause increased stress and increase risk for heart problems. 2

6. Improves Mood

Without adequate sleep, it is likely that most will experience an increase in irritability. Sleep deprivation causes stress, anger and overall feeling of mental exhaustion. In addition to the natural grogginess felt when deprived of sleep, individuals will also typically refrain from social interaction and be difficult to work with.

7. Energy and Alertness

Daytime drowsiness causes decreased alertness and increased safety risks. For example shift workers (nightshift/irregular shift workers) are extremely sleep deprived. These workers tend to have more accidents on the job than workers who keep regular hours because of lack of alertness and energy. 3

Sleep is vital to well-being and health. Many of the above factors affect each other and can all be improved by simply exercising healthy sleep habits. Sleep makes everyone happier and healthier and contributes to productivity in our day-to-day lives.

Bibliography:

1. Medical University of South Carolina—Sleep Health Benefits; http://www.muschealth.com/healthyaging/sleep_health_benefits.htm

2. Harvard Medical School—Health Publications: Importance of Sleep and Health; http://www.health.harvard.edu/press_releases/importance_of_sleep_and_health

3. Maas, Dr. James B., Megan L. Wherry, David J Axelrod, Barbara R. Hogan, and Jennifer A. Blumin. Power Sleep: The Revolutionary Program That Prepares Your Mind for Peak Performance. New York : Villard, 1998.

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