Often, sleep is seen as a “want to have” rather than a “need to have.” Well, feel free to hit the snooze button a few more times after reading these 10 surprising health benefits researchers discovered of a good night’s sleep.
1. Improve Memory – A process called consolidation occurs during sleep that can help you strengthen memories or “practice” skills learned while you were awake. In other words, if you are trying to learn something new, you will perform better after sleeping.
2. Curb Inflammation – 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. Various types of inflammation have been linked to heart disease, stroke, diabetes, arthritis and more. A 2010 study found that C-reactive protein, which is associated with heart attack risk, was higher in people who got six or fewer hours of sleep a night.
3. Spark Creativity – In addition to consolidating memories, or making them stronger, our brains seem to reorganize and restructure memories, which may result in increased creativity. 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.
4. Improve Performance – As an athlete, better sleep can improve your performance. 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. The results of this study reflect previous findings seen in tennis players and swimmers.
5. Improve Grades – According to a 2010 study in the journal Sleep, children between the ages of 10-16 who had various types of interrupted breathing during sleep are more likely to have problems with attention and learning. This could lead to “significant functional impairment at school.” In another study, college students who did not get enough sleep had worse grades than those who did.
6. Sharpen Attention – A 2009 study in the journal Pediatrics found that children ages 7 and 8 who got less than about eight hours of sleep a night were more likely to be hyperactive, inattentive, and impulsive. "We diagnose and measure sleep by measuring electrical changes in the brain," Dr. Rapoport says. "So not surprisingly how we sleep affects the brain."
7. Maintain 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.) "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."
8. Reduce 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 affects cholesterol levels, which plays a significant role in heart disease."
9. 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! Insufficient sleep for just one night can be as detrimental to your driving ability as having an alcoholic drink.
10. Avoid Depression – Sleeping well means more to our overall well-being than simply avoiding irritability. "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." Sleep cannot necessarily be made up during the weekend, so it is important to get it throughout the week.
So, make sleep more of a priority in your life. Get your sleep and study hard, so you can succeed in your CHCP programs! If job unhappiness is what is keeping you up at night, The College of Health Care Professions (CHCP) offers health care training in a variety of allied health fields such as medical assisting, nursing, and more. Read about CHCP programs available at ground campuses and online.
Adapted from "11 Surprising Health Benefits of Sleep." Health.com. Health Media Ventures, Inc., n.d. Web. 14 Apr. 2014.