It’s not hard to imagine how “early to bed, early to rise” can make you more productive. You become gradually less productive beginning in the early evening, so why not hit the hay by nine-thirty so you can be up and at ‘em again, bright and early?
This is true – for some of us, anyway – but when doctors and health professionals recommend switching out the light at a decent time, they aren’t usually concerned about how much paperwork or house cleaning we can get done. Rather, if asked, they would probably list one or two of the reasons we’re examining, below!
- Sleep can help you fend off excess weight.
Sleep affects weight gain and loss in a couple significant ways. First of all, lack of sleep puts your hormones all out of whack, specifically the ones that control your appetite. When we’re tired, we’re not just cranky and short-tempered, we often also crave the worst foods for weight loss – all the salty, surgery, fatty goodness we usually try to consume only in moderation.
So, you’re tired and you’ve gorged on ice cream cake and a family-sized bag of dill pickle chips. To add insult to injury, too little sleep can wreak havoc on your metabolism, which means your body won’t be burning off those extra calories as efficiently as usual. On top of all that, most of us don’t feel very motivated to work out when we’re dog tired.
Sleep more, and all these fractured pieces fall back into place.
- It can fade those worry lines.
Sleep is an essential process during which our brains and bodies recharge. With too little sleep, worry – presenting as stress or anxiety – can become a vicious cycle, with stress keeping you from sleeping well, and lack of sleep keeping you from de-stressing.
When we get a good sleep, our bodies ease into REM, where dreaming occurs. In this stage of sleep, stress hormones like cortisol and norepinephrine decrease, and our memories sort themselves out and move into perspective; that’s why we often wake up realizing whatever had us devastated last night no longer seems so bad.
Research also suggests that your sleep position can affect wrinkles. Instead of snoozing on your stomach or side, try slumbering on your back to avoid facial contact with the pillow. This can prevent puffy eyes and bacteria-related breakouts.
- Your immune system thrives on zzz’s.
When we’re tired, our immune systems get lazy. Rather than leaping to attention when sickness creeps in, our first line of defense might just pull the pillow over its head and beg for five more minutes. Studies have shown that white blood cells called T-cells – the little soldiers that create the antibodies we need to stay healthy – are much higher in people who get enough sleep, than in those who burn the midnight oil.
- Heart disease wants you to sleep less.
Though a few late or restless nights won’t give you a heart attack, scientists have found that people who regularly get too little sleep have higher blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol – all factors that increase the risk of heart disease.
Your body never rests
Every night while we’re dreaming of sugarplums, our bodies are hard at work repairing and regenerating tissues, including those in the blood vessels and heart. Interrupt or prevent your body from this vital task for too long, and you’re stacking the odds against yourself in a big way.
If you do what you can to get enough sleep, but struggle with insomnia, protecting your heart is one good reason to seek help for your condition: research suggests people with chronic insomnia often have more stress hormones and higher heart rate, two more major players in heart failure.
- Pain and sleep have a fraught but vital relationship.
Like stress, the interaction of pain and sleep can lead to a vicious cycle, as anyone with an injury or chronic pain condition could tell you. The ache keeps you from getting to sleep, or staying asleep, and because you didn’t sleep well, your body didn’t get the chance to do its amazing healing magic.
Medication-free methods like meditation and cognitive-behavioral therapy can help you fall and remain asleep if you struggle with pain. Though your pain is still there, such activities can shift how your brain views the pain you’re feeling, allowing you to put it aside enough to fall asleep.
Of course, if alternative therapies don’t ease you into dreamland, talk to a professional about a medication that will; the five reasons listed here are just a sampling of how important it is to get enough sleep!
Know you need more sleep, but not quite sure how to make it happen? Try simple remedies like a relaxing bath, sipping warm milk or chamomile tea, and using a spray or diffuser to waft the scent of lavender through your bedroom. If you’re really dedicated to making a change, consider taking up meditation or soothing yin yoga, and (here’s the tricky one) completely disconnect yourself from electronics for at least an hour before lights out.
Still need a sleep aid?
Last but not least (and we’d recommend in combination with the aforementioned methods), you can try a soothing strain like Mazar feminized cannabis seeds to help you get the hours your body needs.