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10 Reasons to Get More Sleep & 4 Reasons Why It’s Important and How to Get It


Getting a good night’s sleep is incredibly important for your health. In fact, it’s just as important as eating a balanced, nutritious diet and exercising.


Though sleep needs vary from person to person, most adults require between 7 and 9 hours of sleep per night. Yet, up to 35% of adults in the United States don’t get enough sleep (1Trusted Source, 2Trusted Source).


Sleep deprivation can put your health and safety at risk, which is why it’s essential that you prioritize and protect your sleep on a daily basis.


This article tells you 9 reasons why you need to get more sleep.




1. May help you maintain or lose weight


Numerous studies have associated short sleep — defined as sleeping fewer than 7 hours per night — with a greater risk of weight gain and a higher body mass index (BMI) (3Trusted Source, 4Trusted Source, 5Trusted Source).


In fact, a 2020 analysis found that adults who slept fewer than 7 hours per night had a whopping 41% increased risk of developing obesity. Meanwhile, sleeping longer didn’t increase the risk (6Trusted Source).


The effect of sleep on weight gain is believed to be affected by numerous factors, including hormones and motivation to exercise (5Trusted Source).


For instance, sleep deprivation increases levels of ghrelin and decreases levels of leptin. Ghrelin is a hormone that makes us feel hungry while leptin makes us feel full. This may cause us to feel hungrier and overeat (7Trusted Source).


This is supported by various studies that have shown that sleep-deprived individuals have a bigger appetite and tend to eat more calories (8Trusted Source, 9Trusted Source).


What’s more, to compensate for lack of energy, sleep deprivation may make you crave foods that are higher in sugar and fat, due to their higher calorie content (10Trusted Source, 11Trusted Source).


To make matters worse, feeling tired after a night of too little sleep may leave you feeling unmotivated to hit the gym, go for a walk, or do whichever other physical activity you enjoy.

So, prioritizing sleep may support healthy body weight.

Summary Short sleep duration is associated with an increased risk of developing obesity and weight gain. Sleep deprivation may increase your appetite and cause you to eat more calories. In particular, you’re more likely to eat foods high in sugar and fat.

2. Can improve concentration and productivity


Sleep is important for various aspects of brain function.


Cognition, concentration, productivity, and performance are all negatively affected by sleep deprivation (12Trusted Source, 13Trusted Source, 14Trusted Source).


A specific study on overworked physicians provides a good example. It found that doctors with moderate, high, and very high sleep-related impairment were 54%, 96%, and 97% more likely to report clinically significant medical errors (15Trusted Source).


On a similar note, getting enough sleep can improve academic performance in children, adolescents, and young adults (16Trusted Source, 17Trusted Source, 18Trusted Source, 19Trusted Source).


Finally, good sleep has been shown to improve problem-solving skills and enhance memory performance in both children and adults (20Trusted Source, 21Trusted Source, 22Trusted Source).


Summary Good sleep can maximize problem-solving skills and enhance memory. In contrast, poor sleep has been shown to impair brain function and decision making skills.

3. Can maximize athletic performance


Sleep has been shown to enhance athletic performance.


Numerous studies have shown that adequate sleep can enhance fine motor skills, reaction time, muscular power, muscular endurance, and problem-solving skills (23Trusted Source, 24Trusted Source, 25Trusted Source).


What’s more, lack of sleep may increase your risk of injury and lower your motivation to exercise (24Trusted Source).


So, getting enough sleep may be just the thing you need to take your performance to the next level.

Summary Getting enough sleep has been shown to improve many aspects of athletic and physical performance.

4. May strengthen your heart


Low sleep quality and duration may increase your risk of developing heart disease (26Trusted Source, 27Trusted Source, 28Trusted Source).


One analysis of 19 studies found that sleeping fewer than 7 hours per day resulted in a 13% increased risk of death from heart disease (29Trusted Source).


Another analysis found that compared with 7 hours of sleep, each 1-hour decrease in sleep was associated with a 6% increased risk of all-cause mortality and heart disease (30Trusted Source).


What’s more, short sleep appears to increase the risk of high blood pressure, especially in those with obstructive sleep apnea — a condition characterized by interrupted breathing during sleep (31Trusted Source, 32Trusted Source).


In fact, one study found that people who slept fewer than 5 hours per night had a 61% higher risk of developing high blood pressure than those who slept 7 hours (33Trusted Source).

Interestingly, excessive sleep in adults — more than 9 hours — was also shown to increase the risk of heart disease and high blood pressure (29Trusted Source, 30Trusted Source, 33Trusted Source).

Summary Sleeping fewer than seven hours per night is linked to an increased risk of heart disease and high blood pressure.

5. Affects sugar metabolism and type 2 diabetes risk


Short sleep is associated with a greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes and insulin resistance — which is when your body cannot use the hormone insulin properly (34Trusted Source).


In fact, an analysis of 36 studies in over 1 million participants found that very short sleep of fewer than 5 hours and short sleep of fewer than 6 hours increased the risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 48% and 18%, respectively (35Trusted Source).


It’s thought that sleep deprivation can cause physiological changes like decreased insulin sensitivity, increased inflammation, and hunger hormone changes, as well as behavioral changes like poor decision making and greater food intake — all of which increase diabetes risk (36Trusted Source).


Plus, sleep deprivation is associated with a higher risk of developing obesity, heart disease, and metabolic syndrome. These factors also increase your risk of diabetes (36Trusted Source, 37Trusted Source).

Summary Many studies show a strong association between chronic sleep deprivation and risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

6. Poor sleep is linked to depression


Mental health concerns, such as depression, are strongly linked to poor sleep quality and sleeping disorders (38Trusted Source, 39Trusted Source, 40Trusted Source).


One study in 2,672 participants found that those with anxiety and depression were more likely to report poorer sleep scores than those without anxiety and depression (40Trusted Source).


In other studies, people with sleeping disorders like insomnia or obstructive sleep apnea also report higher rates of depression than those without (41Trusted Source, 42Trusted Source).


If you have trouble with sleep and notice your mental health has worsened, it’s important to speak with your healthcare professional.

Summary Poor sleeping patterns are strongly linked to depression, particularly for those with a sleeping disorder.

7. Supports a healthy immune system


Lack of sleep has been shown to impair immune function (43Trusted Source, 44Trusted Source).


In one study, participants who slept fewer than 5 hours per night were 4.5 times more likely to develop a cold compared than who slept more than 7 hours. Those who slept 5–6 hours were 4.24 times more likely (45Trusted Source).


Some data also suggests that proper sleep may improve your body’s antibody responses to influenza vaccines (46Trusted Source).


Recently, preliminary data shows that getting enough sleep before and after receiving a COVID-19 vaccination may improve vaccine efficacy. Still, more research is needed to better understand this possible connection (47Trusted Source, 48Trusted Source, 49Trusted Source, 50Trusted Source).

Summary Getting at least 7 hours of sleep can improve your immune function and help fight the common cold. It may also improve COVID-19 vaccine efficacy, though more research is needed.

8. Poor sleep is linked to increased inflammation


Poor sleep can have a major effect on inflammation in the body.


Sleep plays a key role in the regulation of our central nervous system. In particular, it’s involved in the stress-response systems known as the sympathetic nervous system and the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis (51Trusted Source).


Sleep loss, especially from disturbed sleep, is known to activate inflammatory signaling pathways and lead to higher levels of undesirable markers of inflammation, like interleukin-6 and C-reactive protein (51Trusted Source, 52Trusted Source).


Over time, chronic inflammation can cause the development of many chronic conditions, including obesity, heart disease, certain types of cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, depression, and type 2 diabetes (51Trusted Source, 52Trusted Source).

Summary Sleep disturbance is linked to higher levels of inflammation. Over time, this can increase your risk of developing chronic conditions like heart disease, depression, and Alzheimer’s disease.

9. Affects emotions and social interactions


Sleep loss reduces your ability to regulate emotions and interact socially.


When we’re tired, we have a harder time controlling emotional outbursts and our behaviors in front of others. Tiredness may also affect our ability to respond to humor and show empathy (53Trusted Source, 54Trusted Source).


Plus, those who are chronically sleep-deprived are more likely to withdrawal from social events and experience loneliness (55Trusted Source).


Prioritizing sleep may be a key way to improve your relationships with others and help you become more social.


If you deal with loneliness or emotional outbursts, don’t be afraid to reach out to a friend, family member, or healthcare professional to get support. To learn more, view this list of resources.

Summary Sleep deprivation may reduce your social skills and ability to process emotions.

Lack of sleep can be dangerous

Not getting enough sleep can be dangerous for yourself and others.

When we’re tired, our ability to focus on tasks, reflexes, and reaction times decreases. In fact, being severely sleep-deprived is comparable to having consumed excess alcohol.

Concerningly, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that 1 in 25 people have fallen asleep at the wheel while driving. Those who slept fewer than 6 hours were most likely to fall asleep while driving (56Trusted Source).

One 2018 study found that people who slept 6, 5, 4, or fewer than 4 hours had a risk of causing a car accident that was 1.3, 1.9, 2.9, and 15.1 times higher, respectively. This study suggests that your risk of a car accident increases significantly with each hour of lost sleep (57Trusted Source).

Further, the CDC reports that staying awake for more than 18 hours is comparable to having a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.05%. After 24 hours, this increases to 1.00%, which is over the legal driving limit (56Trusted Source).

In addition to increased risks associated with driving, lack of sleep may also increase the risk of workplace injury and errors (58Trusted Source). All in all, getting proper sleep is important for everyone’s safety.

SummarySevere sleep deprivation increases your risk of getting in a car accident or being injured at work. It can greatly affect your ability to make critical decisions.


The bottom line Along with nutrition and exercise, taking care of your sleep is one of the pillars of health. Lack of sleep is associated with many negative health effects, including increased risk of heart disease, depression, weight gain, inflammation, and sickness.


Though individual needs vary, most research suggests that you should get between 7 and 9 hours of sleep per night for optimal health. Just like you prioritize your diet and physical activity, it’s time to give sleep the attention it deserves.


Just one thing

Try this today:  For the next week, keep track of how many hours of sleep you get per  night. If it’s less than 7, try to go to bed 30 minutes earlier every  day the following week. Gradually increase this until you’re getting at  least 7 hours per night.


4 Reasons Why It’s Important and How to Get It



When you sleep well, it’s easy to take sleep for granted. However, it doesn’t take many nights of insomnia to remind us of how critical sleep can be to our lives. While sleep has obvious effects on energy levels, it goes much deeper.

Research shows that problems with sleep can contribute to other health problems including migraines, high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, dementia, Parkinson’s disease, mood disorders, and obesity.


4 Reasons To Improve Your Sleep Quality


Sleep has a balancing and restorative effect on the brain and body. Let’s examine two main types of sleep: deep sleep and rapid-eye-movement (REM) sleep. REM sleep appears important for memory processing and solidifying learning. Deep sleep is more restorative. The quality of sleep includes many factors, including how quickly a person falls asleep, the quality and amount of REM and deep sleep, and how rested a person feels upon awakening.


1. Sleep Loss, Blood Sugar, and Obesity


When we don’t get enough sleep, the effects can start to build up and have negative consequences. During deep sleep, the body goes into a deep state of relaxation—decreasing heart rate, blood pressure, and stress on the nervous system. Levels of the stress hormone cortisol decrease while growth hormone is released.


Without enough deep sleep, detrimental changes occur. Higher levels of stress hormones from poor sleep can have an impact on blood sugar. This increases risks for blood sugar problems, diabetes, and obesity. Higher levels of cortisol will also increase overall levels of stress during the day.


Lack of sleep also rapidly affects two hormones related to appetite control: ghrelin and leptin. After just a couple of nights of reduced sleep, leptin levels decrease and ghrelin levels increase, intensifying hunger and appetite. These changes contribute directly to obesity. Sleep problems have been tied to obesity in children. For adults, every hour of sleep less than an average of 7 hours per night increases risks for obesity by 9%.


2. Sleep and Mental Health


Poor sleep also can have a profound negative impact on the brain and nervous system. When an individual sleeps, the brain rebuilds stores of glycogen. Glycogen offers an energy reserve that provides support for more intense levels of brain functioning in times of need. When glycogen remains low, migraine headaches are more likely.


Studies of repeated sleep deprivation show changes in the brain. The hippocampus, amygdala, and prefrontal cortex, areas in the brain associated with stress and memory, become damaged. The subjects developed problems with memory and became more anxious and aggressive. When combined with blood sugar problems, this can worsen the damage long-term and can likely elevate risks for dementia and cognitive decline.


During sleep, the brain engages in housecleaning. Metabolic wastes get removed and antioxidant defenses improve. If these functions get disrupted, it can contribute to brain cell damage and brain cell death. The damage induced from chronic sleep problems likely contributes to increased risks for developing Parkinson’s disease and other problems with brain functioning.



3. Sleep and Heart Health


Sleep problems and chronic insomnia also appear to worsen risks for heart disease. Blood pressure problems remain strongly influenced by poor sleep. One study found that for every hour lost from an adequate night’s sleep, risks for hypertension increased by 37%. However, not every study has found such a striking correlation. The increase in stress hormones resulting from poor sleep, at least in some cases, can lead to increased blood pressure.


Unfortunately, sleep problems have other negative effects on heart health as well. As already mentioned, sleep disruption can lead to decreased antioxidants and increased free radical damage. Also, you often find increased inflammation. The lining of the blood vessels throughout the body can develop problems due to increased endothelin production, a signaling molecule that causes blood vessels to constrict. This can contribute to plaque build up along the arteries, an underlying cause of heart disease.


4. Sleep and Immune Function


It has been known for a while that sleep disruption can cause problems with immune function. A recent study even implicated shift work and sleep disruptions in contributing to an increased risk for viral infections, including coronavirus.

Poor sleep influences immune function in several detrimental ways, including increased levels of inflammation. This increase may contribute to other chronic health problems, as Inflammation is a common, underlying component of most chronic health conditions.


Standard Treatments for Insomnia


Drug therapies for sleep often include antihistamine medications like Benadryl or stronger sedatives, like Ambien and Xanax. Unfortunately, concerning correlations have been uncovered linking sleep medications to increased risks of death. One large study found that any use of sleep medication subsequently doubled the risk of death. The use of sedative-type sleep medication has been linked to increased death from respiratory problems, infections, mood disorders, and accidents.


While it might be worth the increased risks if sleep medications worked well, that doesn’t appear to be the case. In one study, one of the more popular sleep medications was only shown to increase sleep duration by 11 minutes per night on average. Safer, more effective options for treating insomnia would be preferable.


8 Lifestyle Factors That Affect Sleep


While the research is somewhat mixed, there are general recommendations for improving sleep that appear to help. These non-drug approaches include:

  1. Having a consistent bedtime

  2. Exercising or engaging in physical activity during the day

  3. Keeping the bedroom dark during sleep at night

  4. Avoiding naps longer than 15 minutes during the day

  5. Abstaining from alcohol or nicotine before bed

  6. Limiting caffeine consumption to the morning

  7. Keeping evening meals smaller and not too close to bedtime

  8. Eliminating computers, televisions, and cell phones from the bedroom

In addition to these approaches, many natural sleep aids have started to show some potential in the published research.


Natural Supplements To Improve Sleep

Melatonin

When it’s dark, our bodies naturally produce the sleep hormone melatonin. Melatonin is a potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory molecule that not only promotes sleep but may help prevent numerous other health conditions. It also appears to be quite safe with minimal side effects. The majority of the published evidence suggests melatonin can support better sleep. It typically helps individuals fall asleep and decreases the severity of insomnia. While some studies didn’t find significant benefits, they may have suffered from problems with the type or formulation of melatonin administered as different formulations have not always been well characterized. Melatonin – Not Just for Sleep: Read more.

Herbal Sedatives

Valerian, passionflower, lemon balm, lavender, chamomile, magnolia bark, and California poppy are herbs that all have been shown to have sedative or calming properties. While most of these herbs do not have enough human clinical trial data to draw firm conclusions, animal studies and preliminary clinical trials in some cases suggest that they may help with stress-induced insomnia.

The herbs listed, when used properly, also have a reasonable margin of safety. However, you should always talk with your doctor before starting any herbs or supplements especially if you are on any medication or have a chronic health condition. The Best Herbs to Help with Stress: Read more.

Amino Acid Therapies for Sleep

Some amino acids may also have the potential for helping insomnia. Tryptophan, gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), and glycine all have sedative properties that can potentially help you get a good night's sleep. The Ultimate Guide to Amino Acids: Read more.

Tryptophan

Sleepiness after a large meal of turkey is often attributed to its tryptophan content. Research suggests that higher consumption of tryptophan from food appears to correlate with better mood, lower anxiety, and improved sleep. Direct clinical trials with tryptophan have also shown improvements in people struggling with insomnia when given tryptophan before bed. Tryptophan appears quite safe when used in reasonable quantities: under four grams a day. However, tryptophan is a precursor to serotonin, and individuals on medications that affect serotonin levels, like antidepressants, should check with their healthcare provider before taking the amino acid.

GABA and Glycine

GABA and glycine are amino acids that also act as neurotransmitters, similar to serotonin or dopamine. Both amino acids act to inhibit or slow down brain activity. Based on their inhibitory function, it’s not surprising that they appear to have benefits for sleep. Many standard prescription sleep aids directly affect the GABA system.

One study on GABA for insomnia found that both subjective sleep quality and objective sleep efficacy improved with nightly supplementation. A recent review of all the studies on GABA for sleep showed that for insomnia, it primarily helps individuals fall asleep. The effects appear to be mediated through the relaxing properties of the amino acid itself. Similar to the herbal sedatives mentioned, If stress is keeping you awake, GABA might help.

For glycine, the research is also limited, but promising. Animal studies show that orally administered glycine can effectively increase glycine levels in the brain. Shortly after it’s administered, core body temperature drops. This decrease in temperature is likely related to better sleep since core body temperature typically decreases before the onset of sleep. In a human trial, glycine was shown to improve both subjective and objective scores of sleep without causing waking drowsiness.

Takeaway

Sleep remains vital to our day-to-day and long-term health. Considering the number of people that struggle with insomnia and the potentially concerning side effects from standard prescription sleep medications, other options are needed. Fortunately, the latest research suggests that many natural sleep aids, including melatonin, herbal products, and amino acids may have the potential to improve sleep with minimal side effects. The‌ ‌6‌ ‌Best‌ ‌Natural‌ ‌Supplements‌ ‌for‌ ‌Sleep‌: Read more. References:

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This article was written by Dr. Scott Buesing, ND who has over 15 years of experience as a naturopathic doctor practicing integrative medicine. Dr. Scott Buesing has helped numerous patients improve their health. Over the course of his career, he has practiced collaboratively in a multidisciplinary partial hospitalization program for mental health and treated patients struggling with chronic pain at an integrative Southern California pain clinic.

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