12 Reasons Why Sleep Should be Your “Drug” of Choice

Young Beautiful Woman Sleeping on Bed

Sleep is essential to life, but far too few of us get enough of it. The Better Sleep Council reports that only 20 percent of Americans believe they are sleeping enough at night. A lack of sleep can have serious health consequences. Find 12 good reasons to get more sleep below.

Sleep improves daytime performance

If you are tired, you will not function at your best. Studies indicate that if you get enough sleep, you will have better problem solving skills and a better memory than a person who is sleep deprived.

Poor sleep can make you fat

Research shows that individuals who do not get enough sleep are more likely to be overweight. One significant risk factor for obesity is a lack of sleep. A review study from the journal Sleep found that adults and children who did not sleep well or usually slept fewer than eight hours a night were between 55 and 89 percent more likely to be obese. The risk was particularly high for children.

Sleep can improve concentration

Anyone who has tried to concentrate at work or on a test after just a few hours of sleep knows that it is much harder. Sleep is necessary for the brain to function efficiently.

In one landmark study published in 2004 in the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers found that sleep had dramatic results on academic performance. Medical interns were either instructed to sleep “normally” (which meant too little sleep) or get more sleep. The students who slept less made 36 percent more errors than the rested students.

Sleep can improve immune function

A large part of the immune system is housed in the stomach and intestines. How much sleep you get directly affects your gut; a lack of sleep can reduce your ability to fight off invaders. Proper sleep is essential for a healthy immune system.

Poor sleep leads to mood swings

Most parents know that a lack of sleep can cause significant mood swings. We have all, at some point, felt ourselves get angry over nothing when we are tired. A chronic lack of sleep can also lead to feelings of depression.

Sleep will reduce pain

A new study published in the journal Pain in 2015 found that sleep deprivation actually lowered a person’s tolerance for pain. When you get enough sleep, your pain tolerance increases.

Poor sleep kills sex drive

When you are exhausted, you are far less likely to want to have sex. Sex is also part of a healthy life, so getting enough sleep is important.

Getting enough sleep reduces injury risk

When you are tired, your reflexes are slower and your mental clarity is lessened. You are therefore more likely to make mistakes that can lead to injuries.

Sleep helps to prevent overeating

If you are sleep deprived, chances are you will eat to provide your body with more energy. A lack of sleep also disrupts hormone activity; it causes a higher production of ghrelin, the hormone that stimulates appetite. Therefore, individuals who do not get enough sleep are more likely to feel hungrier and eat more calories.

Not getting enough sleep has serious health consequences

Research shows a chronic lack of sleep has negative consequences both in the short and long term. Studies indicate that a lack of sleep is a risk factor for:

  • Heart disease
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Depression
  • Obesity

Adequate sleep reduces inflammation

Inflammation is part of the body’s healing response, but too much inflammation causes serious problems. A 2013 study published in the World Journal of Gastroenterology found that irritable bowel syndrome and other inflammatory gut diseases are strongly linked with a lack of sleep.

Not sleeping well reduces athletic performance

Sleep not only benefits your mental health, but it also benefits athletic performance. A lack of sleep can diminish athletic ability. A study of nearly 3,000 women published in the journal Sleep in 2007 found that the women who slept the least had reduced grip strength, difficulty performing activities, and a slower walking speed.

While getting enough sleep is often pushed to the very end of our to-do lists, these reasons should be enough to convince anyone to get some extra shut-eye. The National Sleep Foundation recommends that all adults get between seven and nine hours of solid sleep per night for optimal health and mental clarity. You can get more sleep by committing to being in bed at a certain time each night no matter what — to rise at 7 a.m. go to bed by 11 p.m. and you’ll get your recommended eight hours of rejuvenating sleep.

-Dr. Joshua Levitt