A good night’s sleep is incredibly important for health.
In fact, it is just as important as eating healthy and exercising.
Unfortunately, the Western environment is interfering with natural sleep patterns.
People are now sleeping less than they did in the past, and sleep quality has decreased as well.
Here are 10 reasons why good sleep is important.
1. Poor Sleep Can Make You Fat
Poor sleep is strongly linked to weight gain.
In fact, short sleep duration is one of the strongest risk factors for obesity.
In one massive review study, children and adults with short sleep duration were 89% and 55% more likely to become obese, respectively (3).
The effect of sleep on weight gain is believed to be mediated by numerous factors, including hormones and motivation to exercise (4).
If you are trying to lose weight, getting quality sleep is absolutely crucial.
Bottom Line: Short sleep duration is associated with a drastically increased risk of weight gain and obesity, in both children and adults.
2. Good Sleepers Tend to Eat Fewer Calories
Studies show that sleep deprived individuals have a bigger appetite and tend to eat more calories.
Bottom Line: Poor sleep affects hormones that regulate appetite. Those who get adequate sleep tend to eat fewer calories than those who don’t.
3. Good Sleep Can Improve Concentration and Productivity
Sleep is important for various aspects of brain function.
This includes cognition, concentration, productivity and performance (7).
All of these are negatively affected by sleep deprivation.
A study on medical interns provides a good example.
Interns on a “traditional schedule” made 36% more serious medical errors than interns on a schedule that allowed more sleep (8).
Another study found short sleep can negatively impact some aspects of brain function to a similar degree as alcohol intoxication (9).
Bottom Line: Good sleep can maximize problem solving skills and enhance memory. Poor sleep has been shown to impair brain function.
4. Good Sleep Can Maximize Athletic Performance
Sleep has been shown to enhance athletic performance.
In a study on basketball players, longer sleep was shown to significantly improve speed, accuracy, reaction times, and mental wellbeing (13).
Less sleep duration has also been associated with poor exercise performance and functional limitation in elderly women.
A study of over 2,800 women found that poor sleep was linked to slower walking, lower grip strength, and greater difficulty performing independent activities (14).
Bottom Line: Longer sleep has been shown to improve many aspects of athletic and physical performance.
5. Poor Sleepers Have a Greater Risk of Heart Disease and Stroke
We know that sleep quality and duration can have a major effect on many risk factors.
These are the factors believed to drive chronic diseases, including heart disease.
A review of 15 studies found that short sleepers are at far greater risk of heart disease or stroke than those who sleep 7 to 8 hours per night (15).
Bottom Line: Sleeping less than 7-8 hours per night is linked to an increased risk of heart disease and stroke.
6. Sleep Affects Glucose Metabolism and Type 2 Diabetes Risk
In a study of healthy young men, restricting sleep to 4 hours per night for 6 nights in a row caused symptoms of pre-diabetes (18).
This was then resolved after 1 week of increased sleep duration.
Poor sleep habits are also strongly linked to adverse effects on blood sugar in the general population.
Bottom Line: Sleep deprivation can cause pre-diabetes in healthy adults, in as little as 6 days. Many studies show a strong link between short sleep duration and type 2 diabetes risk.
7. Poor Sleep is Linked to Depression
Mental health issues, such as depression, are strongly linked to poor sleep quality and sleeping disorders.
It has been estimated that 90% of patients with depression complain about sleep quality (21).
Poor sleep is even associated with increased risk of death by suicide (22).
Those with sleeping disorders, such as insomnia or obstructive sleep apnea, also report significantly higher rates of depression than those without (23).
Bottom Line: Poor sleeping patterns are strongly linked to depression, particularly for those with a sleeping disorder.
8. Sleep Improves Your Immune Function
Even a small loss of sleep has been shown to impair immune function (24).
One large 2-week study monitored the development of the common cold after giving people nasal drops with the virus that causes colds (25).
They found that those who slept less than 7 hours were almost three times more likely to develop a cold than those who slept 8 hours or more.
If you often get colds, ensuring that you get at least 8 hours of sleep per night could be very helpful. Eating more garlic can help too.
Bottom Line: Getting at least 8 hours of sleep can improve immune function and help fight the common cold.
9. Poor Sleep is Linked to Increased Inflammation
Sleep can have a major effect on inflammation in the body.
In fact, sleep loss is known to activate undesirable markers of inflammation and cell damage.
One study observed that sleep deprived patients with Crohn’s disease were twice as likely to relapse as patients who slept well (28).
Researchers are even recommending sleep evaluation to help predict outcomes in sufferers of long-term inflammatory issues (27).
Bottom Line: Sleep affects the body’s inflammatory responses. Poor sleep is strongly linked to inflammatory bowel diseases and can increase the risk of disease recurrence.
10. Sleep Affects Emotions and Social Interactions
Sleep loss reduces our ability to interact socially.
One study found that people who had not slept had a reduced ability to recognize expressions of anger and happiness (31).
Researchers believe that poor sleep affects our ability to recognize important social cues and process emotional information.
Take Home Message
Along with nutrition and exercise, good sleep is one of the pillars of health.
You simply can not achieve optimal health without taking care of your sleep.