Medical experts recommend getting between seven and nine hours of sleep per night, but only 59% of Americans actually manage this. There are a lot of reasons why people don’t get enough sleep, ranging from needing to catch up at school or work to simply wanting to stay up and relax alone. But whatever the motivation, a lack of sleep can have serious health repercussions. Here are 7 surprising reasons you might want to get more sleep tonight.
1. Sleep Can Help You Avoid Getting Sick
If you’ve ever gone for a long time without getting enough sleep, you know that you start feeling worn out and your body just doesn’t feel like it’s working as well. Well, it’s more than just a feeling. Sleep is critical to the proper functioning of your body’s immune system, and when you miss out on sleep, you’re actually making yourself more vulnerable to getting sick with the flu, the common cold, or whatever other bugs are floating around out there. Sleep deprivation has also been linked to an increased risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, diabetes and other serious diseases.
And lack of sleep doesn’t just make you sick—it may also make your body respond less willingly to treatment. Some studies have even shown that sleep deprivation can cause people to take longer to respond to vaccines.
2. Sleep Can Improve Your Sex Life
Just about everyone wishes their sex life had more pizzazz, but not everyone knows that the simple act of getting enough sleep can go a long way toward helping with that. A poll by the National Sleep Foundation found that 26% of people report that their sex life is hampered because they’re too sleepy. In addition to just generally depressing your mood and lowering your energy levels, a lack of sleep is associated with lowered levels of testosterone in men—a hormone with definite ties to the libido. But lack of sleep may not just affect your interest in sex, it may also reduce your ability to perform, because sleep deprivation can lead to an increased risk of erectile dysfunction.
3. Sleep Can Improve Your Appearance
We hear the phrase “beauty sleep” so often that many of us have lost track of its actual meaning—sleep has a real effect on your appearance. We all know that a lack of sleep can cause dark circles under your eyes, but it can also lead to other changes in appearance as well. Doris Day, a dermatologist from New York, says that a lack of sleep “makes you look, angry, sad and certainly older.” According to Day, your skin renews itself while you sleep, and if you’re not getting enough sleep you miss out on that renewal.
4. Sleep Can Reduce Pain
We all know that being sleep-deprived can seem painful, but did you know that getting enough sleep can actually help you reduce the amount of physical pain you feel? Whether your pain comes from a recent injury or is chronic, there seems to be a link between getting enough sleep and having a higher pain threshold.
5. Sleep Helps You Build Muscle
If you’re trying to build muscle, you already know how important rest days are. But how you rest at night can have just as much to do with your success in putting on muscle. When you’re asleep, your body goes into repair mode, which means that it can fix the micro-tears that you’ve caused due to working out. Sleep is also a time when the body can release growth hormone, another factor that can help with muscle production.
6. Sleep Can Help You Lose Weight
While you might initially think that being awake for more of the day would burn more calories, getting enough sleep is actually a great way to support your weight loss goals. When you feel sleepy, it’s easy to turn to junk food to provide an energy boost to get you through the day. While this may solve the temporary problem of tiredness, it does drastically jack up the number of calories you consume. And it’s not just in your head—scientists have found that sleep-deprivation actually increases a person’s levels of ghrelin (a hormone which causes food cravings) and decreases levels of leptin (a hormone that causes feelings of satiety).
7. Sleep Helps You Become Smarter
If you’ve ever wished you were smarter, sleep can help. A lack of sleep impairs your ability to pay attention, reason properly, solve problems and concentrate. This lack of alertness makes it difficult to make intelligent choices and to learn efficiently. Furthermore, sleep is a time when your mind collates and consolidates your memories. If you aren’t getting enough sleep, you’ll have a much harder time recalling what you’ve learned throughout the course of the day.