There is nothing better than the feeling of falling off to sleep and then waking up in the morning feeling refreshed and healthy. In the past, the benefits of a good night’s sleep were often overlooked by health care professionals, but now the importance of sleep to our overall health and wellbeing is becoming better understood. To receive the full extent of the following health benefits, get yourself a more comfortable bed and a warmer doona, and get some sleep!

Keeps your heart healthy

A serious lack of sleep is now associated with worsening of blood pressure and cholesterol levels, which are risk factors linked with heart disease and stroke. A stat that shows heart attacks and strokes are more common during the early morning hours supports this theory, and it is thought that seven to nine hours of sleep each night could greatly reduce these risks.

 

Reduces stress

When your body becomes sleep-deprived, it starts going into a state of stress. This is because when your body is overtired it goes into “high alert” mode, which increases blood pressure and causes the production of stress hormones. The more consistent your sleeping patterns, the less likely you are to feel this unnecessary stress, and the more likely you are to stay healthy and get better sleep in the future.

Strengthens your memory

While it’s still not fully understood why we sleep and dream, it is becoming clear that sleep is important for the consolidation of our memories. When your body is busy resting, your brain is in full action mode — processing your day and making connections between events, sensory inputs, feelings and memories. The more deep sleep you get, the more opportunities your brain will have to make important memories and links, which will help you remember and process information better in your waking life.

Helps you lose weight

More and more research is concluding that lack of sleep impacts the balance of the appetite-controlling hormones in the body. Ghrelin and leptin are the hormones that are responsible for regulating your appetite, and research has found they become disrupted by lack of sleep. Basically, if you aren’t getting enough sleep then you are at a higher risk of becoming overweight or obese.

Reduces risk of depression

Another hormone that is disrupted by lack of sleep is serotonin, which has been found to affect mood. People with a serotonin deficiency are more likely to suffer from depression, so you can try to avoid this by getting the proper amount of sleep each night.

Helps your body repair

Your brain isn’t the only part of your body that is active during sleep: the cells in your body are also working hard to repair, regenerate and produce more protein while you’re in an unconscious state. Damages you suffer during the day from things like stress, ultraviolet rays and other harmful exposures are actively being repaired while you sleep. Thus, the more sleep you get, the better the opportunity your body has to make repairs.

While the reason we need to sleep so much remains largely elusive, it’s clear that sleep plays a large role in maintaining our physical and mental health and wellbeing. If you’re feeling tired, stressed or absent-minded these days, it may be time to try getting a better night’s sleep.