11 Health Benefits of Sleep (2022)

Sleep is something that everyone needs, no matter how young or old they are. According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), sleep is crucial for having a healthy life.

On the contrary, insufficient sleep is linked to a host of health problems—from depression to cardiovascular disease to weight issues.

"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."

Here are 11 benefits of getting a good night's sleep.

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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).

"If you are trying to learn something, whether it's physical or mental, you learn it to a certain point with practice," said David Rapoport, MD, founder and president of the Foundation for Research in Sleep Disorders. "But something happens while you sleep that makes you learn it better."

In other words if you're trying to learn something new—whether it's Spanish or a new tennis swing—you'll perform better after sleeping.

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The Potential to Live Longer Comes with Better Sleep

Too much or too little sleep can be associated with a shorter lifespan. This is because of sleep's relationship to the rest of the body's processes.

For example, according to the Sleep Foundation, oversleeping (sleeping longer than 9 hours within 24 hours) can result in chronic diseases or conditions, like heart disease, obesity, or diabetes. Some of those conditions can lead to early death, per the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (ODPHP).

Further, a February 2018 study published in the Journal of Gerontology followed a collective group of 55,494 people, aged 50-75 and living in England, Finland, or Sweden, to investigate healthy and chronic disease-free life expectancy based on how long the participants slept and if they had sleep issues.

The researchers found that those who slept between 7 to 8.5 hours—but not less than 7 hours or more than 9 hours—could expect to have one to three more years of longer, healthier lives.

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

In a September 2020 study published in Frontiers in Neurology, researchers noted that C-reactive protein (CRP), which increases whenever inflammation is present in the body, is linked to worse sleep.

People who have sleep apnea or insomnia can have an improvement in blood pressure and inflammation with treatment of the sleep disorders, Dr. Rapoport said.

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You Might Get Some Help With Your Creativity

Get a good night's sleep before getting out the easel and paintbrushes or the pen and paper.

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—as noted in a December 2021 Science Advances study.

The same study also found that being in stage 1 sleep for at least 15 seconds ignited "creative sparks"—the participants were able to figure out a secret rule for quickly solving math problems they had been exposed to while awake.

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If you're an athlete, sleep can improve your performance.

In a June 2021 Healthcare review, researchers investigated the links between sleep, athletic performance, match performance, training load, and injuries for soccer players. From some of the studies they reviewed, they found that poor sleep quality could negatively affect athletic performance and the risk of injuries while increased sleep could have a positive effect on stress, fatigue, and mood.

The Sleep Foundation also indicated that sleep gives athletes the opportunity to rest their heart, prevent illness, and improve cognitive processing (mental functioning related to taking information and storing it for use later).

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Sleep Can Improve School Performance

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) stated that grade-age students can have poorer academic performance when they don't get the sleep they need.

For college students, sleeping for a sufficient amount of time can improve GPA, while insufficient sleep could lead to, for example, a lower speed of cognitive processing—according to a January 2022 review published in Humanities and Social Sciences Communications.

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

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A lack of sleep can result in ADHD-like symptoms in kids, Dr. Rapaport said.

The Sleep Foundation noted that children can switch from grumpiness to hyperactivity when they haven't had enough sleep as well.

"Kids don't react the same way to sleep deprivation as adults do," Dr. Rapoport added.

Thus, so your children can focus better, make sure that they can get the recommended amount of sleep for their age (which could range from eight to 13 hours), as noted in a June 2016 Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine article.

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Healthier Weights Come with Sufficient Sleep

If you are trying to lose weight, getting an adequate amount of sleep can help.

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

Researchers of an International Journal of Obesity study published in March 2021 studied the connection between sleep health and changes in weight. They found that the better the participants slept, the more weight and fat they lost.

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Stress and problems with sleep are connected, as their relationship is bidirectional, according to a May 2021 Annals of Behavioral Medicine article.

This means that stress can lead to sleep issues and vice versa. Additionally, when it comes to our health, stress and sleep are nearly one and the same—and both can affect cardiovascular health.

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

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You'll Be Less Prone to Have An Accident

In a December 2018 BMC Medicine study, the researchers indicated a simple connection between sleep deficiency and motor vehicle crashes: Being sleepy increased the risk for those crashes.

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

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

If you think the long hours put in during the week are the cause of your anxiety or impatience, Dr. Rapoport warned that sleep cannot necessarily be made up during the weekend.

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"If you sleep more on the weekends, you simply aren't sleeping enough in the week," Dr. Rapaport added. "It's all about finding a balance."

Ultimately, if you find that you're still having major problems with sleep, you'll want to talk to your healthcare provider for advice and treatment options based on your situation.

FAQs

What is the most important benefit of sleep? ›

Sleep is an essential function1 that allows your body and mind to recharge, leaving you refreshed and alert when you wake up. Healthy sleep also helps the body remain healthy and stave off diseases. Without enough sleep, the brain cannot function properly.

Why do we need sleep? ›

Sleep keeps us healthy and functioning well. It lets your body and brain repair, restore, and reenergize. If you don't get enough sleep, you might experience side effects like poor memory and focus, weakened immunity, and mood changes. Most adults need 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night.

What sleep does to body? ›

“Sleep affects almost every tissue in our bodies,” says Dr. Michael Twery, a sleep expert at NIH. “It affects growth and stress hormones, our immune system, appetite, breathing, blood pressure and cardiovascular health.” Research shows that lack of sleep increases the risk for obesity, heart disease and infections.

What happens if you don't sleep? ›

A number of chronic health conditions may be affected by not getting enough sleep on a regular basis. These include high blood pressure, diabetes, heart failure, coronary heart disease and some cancers. You may also be more likely to have a stroke. You're at greater risk of injury.

Why does lying in bed feel so good? ›

When we sleep, our bodies produce a hormone called melatonin which makes us feel relaxed and comfortable.

What happens to your brain when you don't get enough sleep? ›

Sleep deprivation leaves your brain exhausted, so it can't perform its duties as well. You may also find it more difficult to concentrate or learn new things. The signals your body sends may also be delayed, decreasing your coordination and increasing your risk for accidents.

What happens to your brain when you sleep? ›

Sleep is important to a number of brain functions, including how nerve cells (neurons) communicate with each other. In fact, your brain and body stay remarkably active while you sleep. Recent findings suggest that sleep plays a housekeeping role that removes toxins in your brain that build up while you are awake.

What happens if you sleep too much? ›

Too much sleep on a regular basis can increase the risk of diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and death according to several studies done over the years. Too much is defined as greater than nine hours. The most common cause is not getting enough sleep the night before, or cumulatively during the week.

How much sleep do you need by age? ›

How Much Sleep Do I Need?
Age GroupRecommended Hours of Sleep Per Day
Newborn0–3 months14–17 hours (National Sleep Foundation)1 No recommendation (American Academy of Sleep Medicine)2
Teen13–18 years8–10 hours per 24 hours2
Adult18–60 years7 or more hours per night3
61–64 years7–9 hours1
5 more rows
14 Sept 2022

What are 5 benefits of sleep? ›

Health Benefits
  • Get sick less often.
  • Stay at a healthy weight.
  • Lower your risk for serious health problems, like diabetes and heart disease.
  • Reduce stress and improve your mood.
  • Think more clearly and do better in school and at work.
  • Get along better with people.
1 Aug 2021

Why you should sleep before 11pm? ›

In addition to regulating circadian rhythm, sleep before midnight can affect our overall wellness when awake. “Sleeping before midnight helps to ensure that you have enough daytime hours of light exposure to regulate your melatonin production,” Rohrscheib says.

What time is the best to sleep? ›

Research suggests the ideal time to go to sleep is 10 p.m. But you should focus more on having a consistent schedule and routine when it comes to hitting the hay.

What are 5 benefits of sleep? ›

Health Benefits
  • Get sick less often.
  • Stay at a healthy weight.
  • Lower your risk for serious health problems, like diabetes and heart disease.
  • Reduce stress and improve your mood.
  • Think more clearly and do better in school and at work.
  • Get along better with people.
1 Aug 2021

Why you should sleep before 11pm? ›

In addition to regulating circadian rhythm, sleep before midnight can affect our overall wellness when awake. “Sleeping before midnight helps to ensure that you have enough daytime hours of light exposure to regulate your melatonin production,” Rohrscheib says.

What time is the best to sleep? ›

Research suggests the ideal time to go to sleep is 10 p.m. But you should focus more on having a consistent schedule and routine when it comes to hitting the hay.

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