20 Surprising Benefits of Sleep [Infographic]

Think that sleep is a waste of time? Think again.

It may come as a surprise to many people that getting the recommended 7 to 8 hours of sleep every night is more important than you think. In fact, research tells us that the benefits of sleep range from being more productive the next day all the way to living longer.

Sleep loss on the other hand, is harmful to your health. It increases your risk of making mistakes and getting into accidents. Plus, it can also make you gain weight. For these reasons, it’s always good to try to get enough sleep.

The infographic below lists 20 little known benefits of sleep. We break down the benefits into those that affect you over the long term and those you immediately feel the next morning.

Benefits of Sleep Infographic

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Why Sleep Is Important

Interestingly, the effects of sleep, or lack of it, are evident the very next morning. Like most of us, you’ve probably had days when you just didn’t want to get out of bed. More likely than not, it was because of going to bed late the night before.

While it may not seem like it, your body is very active while you slumber. It is during this time that most of the rebuilding and repairing of damaged tissues happen. This is also when your body secretes growth hormones.

So, getting the right amount of right nightly helps prevent long term conditions such as heart disease and diabetes. If you’re still growing or want to build muscle, sleep is something you don’t make to skimp on. Sleeping on a comfortable and supportive mattress is important, too.

In addition to a good mattress and pillow, regular exercise and bedtime yoga are other things that can help you sleep better.

I remember my younger days when I thought of sleep as something that I needed to do when I got tired at night. Looking back, that wasn’t a good idea.

Benefits the Next Day After a Good Night’s Sleep

1. Enough sleep prevents headaches and migraines

Studies show that poor sleep quality is linked to migraines and headaches. Between 36 to 58% of people with sleep apnea wake up with headaches.

2. Lower stress

Not enough sleep puts your body in a state of stress. When the body is at high alert, it releases stress hormones that increase blood pressure.

3. Improve focus and attention

A 2009 study found that kids ages 7 and 8 who sleep less than 8 hours nightly are more likely to be hyperactive, inattentive, and impulsive. Thus, providing your kids with a good sleeping environment, including the ideal mattress and pillows, help them do better in school.

4. It helps you avoid accidents and errors

Drowsy driving causes 100,000 crashes and 1,500 deaths yearly. Medical residents who slept more also make fewer serious errors.

5. Better reaction

College athletes and West Point military cadets showed slower reaction times after a poor night’s sleep.

6. See and speak better

Poor sleep can cause tunnel and double vision. Meanwhile, staying awake too long can cause slurred speech.

7. You’ll have better sex

Not enough sleep reduces your sex drive. It also increases your risk of sexual dysfunction. Meanwhile, sleep restores your sex hormones.

8. Getting enough sleep helps reduce chronic pain

Lack of sleep makes you more sensitive to pain. This can lead to a vicious cycle that keeps you awake at night.

9. You’re less easily irritated or upset

You get easily irritated and more emotionally volatile when you don’t get enough sleep. Even small things can tick you off.

10. Improves productivity and concentration

Good sleep lets you wake up refreshed and energized. This leads to better cognition, concentration, productivity and performance.

11. Sleep lets the body repair itself

While you sleep, your body is busy repairing damaged cells and tissues. It also produces more protein molecules which are the building blocks of cells.

Benefits of Sleep In the Long Term

12. Improve learning and memory

Sleep helps you learn and remember things better. Both kids and adults show better problem solving and memory skills with good sleep. Meanwhile, students who didn’t get enough sleep had worse grades.

13. It makes you happier

A study of 909 working women found that a poor night’s sleep affects their happiness as much as tight work deadlines do.

14. You’ll live longer

Because your body is able to repair and recover on a nightly basis, you’re able to stay in optimal health. This helps you live longer and avoid chronic diseases.

In fact, research shows that people who get good quality sleep live longer compared to those who don’t.

So, aim for 7 to 8 hours of sleep every night. Too much (9 or more hours) or too little (6 hours or less) sleep can shorten your life.

15. Sleep reduces inflammation

Increased stress hormones caused by lack of sleep raises inflammation in your body. This ups your risk of heart disease, diabetes and cancer.

16. Better immune function

A little sleep loss is enough to dampen your immunity. This makes you more susceptible to colds, flus and viruses.

17. Boost your creativity

Sleep helps your brain reorganize and reinforce memories. It also strengthens the emotional components of memories, making you more creative.

18. Better Athletic Performance

Lebron James, Usain Bolt and Maria Sharapova all sleep 10 or more hours a day. That’s because longer sleep improves speed, accuracy, reaction time and mental well-being.

19. Help you lose weight and stay fit

You’re more likely to be overweight or obese if you sleep less than 7 hours a night. Lack of sleep also affects ghrelin and leptin, appetite hormones, making you eat more.

20. Napping makes you smarter

Napping improves memory, cognitive function, and mood. A study also found that people who napped a few times a week had lower risk of heart disease.

21. Let’s you build muscle more easily

After working out, sleep lets your body repair and rebuild muscle tissues so they get stronger. Your body also releases growth hormones while you slumber.

22. Healthier, younger looking skin

Sleep slows down aging. It also allows your body to recover from stress, anxiety and depression which can cause skin problems.

23. Teens are less likely to abuse alcohol

Poor sleep messes with our circadian rhythm. This affect your brain’s reward system causing teens to engage in risky behavior and alcohol use.

24. Cut your risk of developing diabetes

Compared to adults who sleep 7 to 8 hours nightly, those who sleep 5 and 6 hours are 2.5 and 1.7 times more likely to develop diabetes. That’s because proper sleep helps our bodies regulate blood sugar and insulin.

25. Improves your mood and makes you less likely to be depressed

Sleep affects many chemicals in your body, including serotonin. Low levels of serotonin make you more likely to experience depression.

26. Healthier heart

Studies show that short sleepers are at higher risk of heart disease or stroke compared to those who sleep 7 to 8 hours nightly.

27. Sleep may help prevent cancer

Night shift workers have a higher risk of breast and colon cancer. Their inverted time clock disrupts their circadian rhythm and melatonin levels which affect tumor growth.