Everyone knows what a good night’s sleep feels like. And I think we can all agree that good sleep is needed in order to be healthy. But what does “good sleep” look like? And if you are able to achieve “good sleep,” what pro-health benefits will you see? I’ll begin addressing these questions this week by highlighting four health benefits of good sleep.
1. Memory & concentration
It’s likely not surprising that one major benefit of good sleep is that it promotes healthy brain activity. If you’re like me and have stayed up all night either voluntarily for a school project or involuntarily due to insomnia, you will agree that you have less concentration on the second day. Because of this, I learned early on in school that I’m much more able to give my attention to my work if I slept even for a few hours. A 2018 study connected this sleep-attention dynamic and found that it’s dependent on the functioning of the cortical and subcortical parts of the brain. Additionally, a 2013 study showed the importance of sleep for the brain’s ability to consolidate memory that leads to the generation and preservation of long-term memories.
But the purpose of having good sleep is not just to feel fresh and have good concentration. Sleep helps facilitate repair and recovery of cells in muscles and organs as well as the renewal and regulation of your metabolism.
A 2017 study looking at people who lived to be 100 or more showed that at age 70, centenarians were more likely to have slept over 8 hours per night and to have napped vs. controls. But does sleeping longer lead to living longer? Not necessarily. A 2007 twin study showed that sleeping less than seven hours per night and more than eight hours per night led to a 24% and 17% increased risk of death, respectively. So, the seven-to-eight-hour window may be a sweet spot for sleep duration on average.
3. Weight management
Obesity is rampant in American society. Short sleep duration has been associated with obesity in a number of studies. These studies, however, fall short in being able to link poor sleep as the cause of this obesity. Association or correlation is not the same as causation. One reason for the link between sleep and weight is due to sleep’s influence on eating behaviors, with insufficient sleep facilitating an increase in snacking and consumption of high-calorie foods. Meals late in the day are very bad from a health perspective as many of your systems are in rest and repair mode vs awake and eating mode. Additionally, when you eat late, your melatonin has turned off your insulin generation, and you are left with high blood glucose levels throughout the night which can fuel inflammation.
4. Guard against depression.
Sleep and depression are like the chicken and the egg. Which comes first? If you struggle with insomnia, you are ten times more likely to develop depression than someone who sleeps well. A 2012 study showed insomnia to be a risk factor for incidence and severity of depression, recurrence of depressive episodes and even suicide. Likewise, research has shown obstructive sleep apnea, the second most common sleep disorder behind insomnia, contributes to the development of depression.
Looking at it from the angle of depression, of those who are depressed, 75 percent have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep. But it seems that improving one’s sleep can break the negative cycle, regardless of where it begins.
I’ll address other sleep topics in the coming weeks ahead of the release of our supplement specifically formulated to help with both sleep and mood.