Chances are, you’re not sleeping enough. According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, up to 35% of adults occasionally have insomnia, with an additional 20% experiencing more frequent insomnia and 10% dealing with chronic insomnia disorder.
The problem with this situation is that lack of sleep can do more than leave you tired the next morning. It can also lead to poor memory, low motivation, and mood changes. Even worse, recent studies suggest that lack of sleep can even make you sick. So here are six surprising ways a good sleepless night can make you healthier.
#1. Sleep can boost your brain
Experts estimate that people who get enough sleep (between six and nine hours per night, as this varies from one person to another) can retain information more easily. This means they have an easier time remembering things, solving problems, and controlling their emotions.
At work, lack of sleep can make it hard to concentrate, while being well-rested can boost your ability to make decisions and solve problems.
Perhaps even more importantly, people who have trouble sleeping are also more prone to suffering from depression. So sleep more and be happier!
#2. Sleep Can Make You Thinner
That’s right—when you don’t sleep enough, you’re hungrier the next day. That’s because the hormone leptin levels (which helps you feel full) go up when you’re sleeping, helping control hunger. Conversely, when you’re tired and lacking sleep, the levels of leptin decrease, so you’re more likely to overeat.
This is a natural bodily response to help maintain your energy level, but one that you don’t want if you’re trying to lose or maintain your weight.
In addition, sleep helps regulate your insulin production, the hormone directly connected to your blood sugar (glucose) levels. High blood sugar levels make you more likely to develop diabetes and affect your hunger and satiety levels, meaning that you might end up overeating again.
#3. Sleep Can Protect Your Heart
According to a study conducted by Emory University, sleeping less than six hours a day increases the amount of C-reactive protein in your body. This protein is directly associated with an increased risk of a heart attack.
In addition, lack of sleep also causes changes in blood vessel function and increases inflammatory hormones in the blood, two other risk factors for heart attacks.
#4. Sleep Can Improve Your Immune System
Your body’s capacity to fight illness and disease goes down when your immune system is weak. In addition, lack of sleep makes your body less capable of fighting infections and even surviving serious illnesses.
#5. Sleep Can Lower Stress
It’s easy to understand how lack of sleep can make you more snappy and moody, but here’s something you might not have considered: stress also increases your blood pressure, and high blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke.
#6. Sleep Can Help You Live Longer
Sleep improves the quality of life on many fronts. However, sleep too little, and you’re more likely to be involved in a car crash or have an accident at work. In fact, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, falling asleep at the wheel is the main cause of about “20% of all motor vehicle crashes.” That statistic accounts for about 8,000 fatalities every year.
Several epidemiological studies also point towards other ways in which lack of sleep increases your mortality risk by about 15%–people who sleep less are more likely to drink more alcohol, eat poorly and take more risks.