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Sleep Benefits 101: Sleep is Your Superpower

“Sleep is Mother Nature’s best effort yet to counter death.”

– Matthew Walker, Professor of Neuroscience and Psychology at the University of California, Berkeley, and author of Why We Sleep

In a few short years, science has made enormous advances in sleep research. We now know that the range of benefits associated with natural sleep is so holistic, they impact every aspect of our health. Well-slept brains are less likely to be anxious or depressed, and rested bodies are less vulnerable to inflammation and disease. Students, athletes, and performers benefit from sleep as much as study or practice. Scientists have found links between REM sleep and healing traumatic memories. And sleep even mends your damaged DNA!

Beauty Sleep is Real
“Lack of sleep causes the stress hormone cortisol to be released, which in turn encourages inflammation in the skin, causing flare-ups in conditions like acne, psoriasis, and even eczema.” says dermatologist Judith Hellman, MD. Sleep prevents bags under your eyes, too. According to The National Sleep Foundation, “During sleep, your body delivers fluids to organs and tissues that need replenishing, while removing excess fluids from other areas.” To get rid of those telltale pockets of fluid under your eyes, get your beauty sleep!

For Learning, Skip the All-Nighters
To stay sharp and learn better, getting a good night’s sleep is far better than pulling an all-nighter. As evidenced by a study published by the National Institute of Health, short sleep leads to declines in attention, working memory, and motivation. Sleep deprivation severely deteriorates everyone’s cognitive function, but it has an even more detrimental effect on young people and men than it does on women and older adults.

Sleep Makes or Breaks Your Mood
Sleep disruption wreaks havoc in the brain, impairing thinking, and emotional regulation. Because it affects your neurotransmitters and stress hormones, sleep deprivation increases anxiety, deteriorates emotional resilience, and contributes to depression, and amplifies the effects of psychiatric disorders. REM sleep, in particular, helps us process emotions and recover from trauma. Sleep doesn’t solve everything, but without it, your mood, motivation, and coping skills are guaranteed to suffer.

Sleep’s Remarkable Healing Powers
As sleep expert Matthew Walker told NPR’s Terry Gross, “From epidemiological studies across millions of people… short sleep predicts a shorter life. Every disease that is killing us in developed nations has causal and significant links to a lack of sleep. And a lack of sleep defined as six hours of sleep or less.” Sleep boosts your immunity, bone strength, and hormonal balance. It reduces inflammation and stress. And it safeguards the body against stroke, cancer, heart disease, and diabetes. Want greater longevity? Give yourself an 8-hour sleep opportunity every night.

Sleep Makes You Slimmer
The $72.7 billion weight loss industry doesn’t want you to know this, but we do: there is a safe, natural, free and easy way to slim down, and it isn’t exercise. It’s sleep. Sleep helps regulate weight and metabolism by boosting motivation, regulating hormones, and enabling you to make better choices. Even a small shortfall in sleep causes a decline in the hormone that signals satiation, and an increase in the one that makes you hungry. We know it sounds too good to be true, but you really can sleep your way to a healthier weight, starting tonight.

Sleep’s Impact on Fertility
A study on sleep issues found that women with insomnia are four times more likely to struggle with fertility compared to well-rested women. Follicle stimulating hormone, or FSH, prepares a woman’s ovaries to release an egg is profoundly impacted, with women who slept six hours or less a night having 20% less FSH than women who got a full 8 hours. Sleep-deprived men don’t fare any better. “Men who sleep five hours a night have significantly smaller testicles than those who sleep seven hours or more,” said sleep expert Matthew Walker in his TED Talk. And he says short-slept men have a 30% lower sperm count, too. So if you want to boost fertility, get serious about sleep.

The Takeaway
Sleep is your superpower! But nature hasn’t evolved a biological safety net for lack of sleep. So if you’re serious about your health, get serious about your shuteye.

We believe the amazing benefits of healthy, high-quality sleep should be accessible to everyone! Want to get a better night’s sleep starting tonight? Check out 5 Rules for Civilized Sleep* (that everyone can do). 

Author: Erin Fierst
Photography: Creative Commons

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