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Go ahead, snooze! Sleep makes you feel better, but its importance goes way beyond just boosting your mood or banishing under-eye circles. Adequate sleep is a key part of a healthy lifestyle and benefits your heart, weight, mind and more. Here are some reasons to catch those zzz’s and start living your best life.
Getting the recommended 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night helps you maintain your weight. Conversely, getting less than the 7 hours of sleep contributes to an increased risk of weight gain. Why? Part of the problem is behavioral. If you’re tired, you might be less likely to have the energy to go for that jog or cook a healthy dinner after work. The other part is physiological. The hormone leptin plays a key role in making you feel full. When you don’t get enough sleep, leptin levels drop, meaning people who are tired feel hungrier.
What mom used to tell you is true. A lack of sleep can make you sick. Getting less than the recommended hours of sleep is associated with lower immune system function and a reduced number of antibodies. That means that you’re more at risk of catching a cold or the seasonal flu. The proof? A sleep study found that those who did not get at least 7 hours of sleep increased their susceptibility to the common cold.
Your mind is surprisingly busy while you snooze. During deep, quality sleep, your mind strengthens memories or “practices” skills learned while you were awake. “If you are trying to learn something, whether it’s physical or mental, you learn it to a certain point with practice,” says Dr. Rapoport, an associate professor at NYU Langone Medical Center. “But something happens while you sleep that makes you learn it better.” In other words, if you’re trying to learn something new, you’ll perform better with plenty of quality sleep.
In addition to consolidating memories or making them stronger, your brain appears to reorganize and restructure them, which may result in more creativity as well. Research at Harvard University and Boston College found that sleep strengthens the emotional components of memory. This has been shown to spur the creative process. So, get a good night’s sleep before busting out the easel and paintbrushes or pen and paper!
Sleeping well means more to our overall well-being than simply avoiding irritability. We all know from experience how sleep deprivation can leave us with a short fuse. But many don’t realize how not getting enough sleep can actually hurt their emotional well-being and affect their mental health, their outlook and their relationships.
Even a single night without good rest sets us up to react more strongly and impulsively to negative or unpleasant situations throughout the day, according to research. Your mental and emotional health—and your relationships with others—depend on you getting the beneficial sleep you need.
So, whether it’s climbing into bed a little earlier each night or replacing your bed with a quality new mattress, make sure you’re getting the full recommended 7 to 9 hours of sleep you need to start living your best life. When you shape your sleep, you shape your life!