Surprising Sleep Benefits
For most of us, sleeping in as an indulgence that we feel like we can’t afford. If you’ve had a hard time getting to sleep, it seems especially challenging to drag yourself out of bed the next morning.
But there are many benefits to getting enough sleep – some of which are obvious and some that might just surprise you.
If you are trying to learn something new, or just generally improve your mind’s capacity for retention, you will have better luck if you get more sleep.
“If you are trying to learn something, whether it’s physical or mental, you learn it to a certain point with practice,” says Dr. Rapoport, who is an associate professor at NYU Langone Medical Center. “But something happens while you sleep that makes you learn it better.”
Your body needs the reenergizing, recuperating effects of sleep in order to function optimally. Over a long period of time, a consistently rested body will serve you much better than a sleep-deprived one.
In a 2010 study of women ages 50 to 79, more deaths occurred in women who got less than five hours or more than six and a half hours of sleep per night. So we see that getting the right amount of sleep for your age group is key – not too much and definitely not too little.
Sleep can help you shed those extra pounds! In a very basic sense, sleeping prevents us from eating and thereby reduces our calorie intake. Those foods that we eat late at night are the most damaging to our diet because they slow down metabolism and are not burned off like those we eat in the morning.
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. So sleep helps us lose weight where it counts, and not just reduce numbers on a scale.
If you have ever been very sleepy in class or in an important meeting, you can feel your mind start to wander back to your bed. It is very difficult to regain focus and be attentive when your mind and body are overstimulated in terms of how much sleep they have gotten.
When we have had a good night’s sleep, we can easily divide our attention and will perform better at multiple tasks than an overly tired person might perform at just one.
“A lack of sleep can contribute to depression,” Dr. Rapoport says. “A good night’s sleep can really help a moody person decrease their anxiety. You get more emotional stability with good sleep.” A rested body gives you a more positive outlook on life and boosts your confidence in your ability.
It is important not just to “catch up” on sleep over the weekends, but to get enough every night. If sleep is always on the back-burner, you are telling your body that you don’t care enough about its needs to accommodate.
Be More Creative
The kind of unique thought that is necessary for creative expression is much harder to achieve with a tired brain.
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.
Some of us view sleep at simply “parking the car” or something to do only when you are on the brink of collapsing. This is especially true of those who suffer from insomnia, who cannot simply sleep when they want to. The truth is, you should try to find a sleeping aid that works for you today, because adequate sleep is absolutely critical to a longer, happier life.