The clock strikes 10, and you’ve got a decision to make…
Are you gonna hop in bed and get your full 8 hours, or are you gonna hit play on that third consecutive episode of Top Chef?
It’s a dilemma to be sure. On the one hand, you don’t want to feel tired again tomorrow morning when the alarm blares. But on the other hand one of the contestants on the next episode looks cute, and you wonder how in the world they’re going to make a respectable breakfast out of strawberries, mayonnaise, and lemon zest.
Besides, you can always just pick up a coffee on the way to the office, right?
We’ll show you how valuable bedtime really is. These are the 8 most interesting benefits of sleep. We don’t want to spoil any surprises, but we’ll go ahead and tell you that your skin needs that rest.
1. Your Brain Gets A Good Cleaning
Studies show that our brains are responsible for about 20% of our resting metabolic rate. That’s about 300 calories a day burned by our brains. Not bad for something that just kind of floats around in the dark.
But all that mental activity leaves a mess in its wake. Chemical byproducts and toxins build up in the brain throughout the course of our waking day. Thankfully it gets cleared away as we sleep.
Something called the Glymphatic System (They must have been running out of names) uses cerebrospinal fluid to clean out the toxins that have accumulated between the cells of the brain. This system is much more active during the hours of sleep, allowing us to wake up refreshed and ready to start the process all over again.
2. Your Body Gets a Break
Sleep provides an opportunity for the systems of the body to get some much needed rest. And it can be surprising just how much the body truly slows down during sleep.
In fact, during sleep your body temperature can drop an entire degree or more. Your heart also takes it easy. The Beats Per Minute of a sleeping person can range from 10-40 beats fewer per minute than their typical resting rate.
3. Growth Hormones are Released
Our bodies naturally produce HGH (Human Growth Hormone) while we sleep. HGH is crucial for kids who are growing, but its role isn’t limited to development.
Fully mature adults require HGH to maintain healthy, youthful bodies. HGH encourages muscle growth, brain function, energy and metabolism, and tissue repair. Without proper sleep, we miss out on much of this hormone that is so crucial for our overall health.
4. Sleep Regulates Hunger Hormones
Multiple studies confirm the link between sleep and body weight. So why does sleep matter to your waistline? The key is a hormone called leptin.
Leptin acts as an appetite suppressant. Our fat cells produce this important hormone, so the more fat we carry, the stronger the signal ought to be. The general effect is that our own fat cells inform our appetite that we are getting dangerously close to having to buy a new pair of blue jeans.
Sadly, when we don’t get enough sleep, our bodies just don’t produce all of the leptin that they should. The result? Every diet becomes impossible!
5. Sleep Eliminates Unnecessary Inflammation
Inflammation increases in the body without sufficient sleep. This effect can be seen in as little as one night of diminished rest.
Inflammation is a result of the body’s immune system turning on its own tissues. That can be serious business over time. Inflammation can be a considerable factor in health risks like heart disease and rheumatoid arthritis.
6. Sleep Improves Memory
Being rested prepares the mind to readily receive information. This makes learning easier. But the role of sleep exceeds just preparation for learning.
It turns out that sleep actually helps to cement what we learn. Information and skills that are learned during the day are solidified during the night. While speculative, some scientists propose that during sleep, important memories are transferred to more efficient and permanent regions of the brain.
What isn’t speculative is that good sleep improves retention. So whether you’re trying to learn the Texas Two-step, or you’ve just committed yourself to remembering the name of that guy from that thing… remember to sleep on it.
7. Your Defenses are Raised
Our Immune systems appear to be closely tied to the healthy operation of our sleep-wake cycle. Disruptions to this rhythm weaken our immune systems and limit our ability to fight disease.
And the effect is pronounced. Certain studies have demonstrated that those who get 8 hours of sleep a night are as much as three times less likely to catch a cold than those who regularly get less than 7.
8. Your Skin Will Thank You
This one’s surprising.
While we sleep, our bodies regulate the hydration of our skin. When we skimp on sleep, our skin is actually less hydrated. The result is a dull look that ages you.
Dry skin can also leave you prone to breakouts as well as redness and inflammation.
Staying rested keeps your skin hydrated and PH levels raised. That’s a good thing. Elevated PH levels mean keeping bacteria out, and the result is healthy, younger looking skin. Just one of the many benefits of sleep.
So what do you think? Have we convinced you to call it a night early? We hope so. And if you’re one of the many people who struggle to fall asleep, check out our helpful article "10 Tips to Sleep Better".