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You’d think that after millennia of human existence, we’d have figured out why we do this thing called sleeping. But scientists are still not sure exactly why we need to sleep.
There are several theories of course. Some say it helps with memory retention and learning, others suggest it is essential in body recovery while others say it gives the brain time to flush out toxins and gunk.
While we’ve been trying to figure out why we sleep, we have discovered that sleep is key to good health and a fulfilled life.
Among the many benefits of sleep scientists have discovered – reduced stress, more energy, increased productivity etc. – there are a few that are more than a little bit surprising. So if you think that a good night’s shut-eye is just good for helping you ward of the previous day’s fatigue, you are in for some pleasant surprises.
Note: If you are looking for a new mattress to help you sleep better, see our foam vs spring mattress comparison.
1. Sleeps helps you lose weight
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You’ve been working out and have made some efforts to eat better but the fat just won’t go. What could the problem be? Check your sleeping habits.
Research has linked poor sleep to several factors that lead to weight gain or make it more difficult to lose weight.
- Poor sleep makes your workouts less effective. Lack of sleep lowers your energy levels, making it more difficult to exercise at full capacity. It also reduces post-workout recovery which can limit your muscle growth.
- Poor sleep makes the body store more fat. If you don’t sleep well, your cortisol and insulin levels go up. This sends a signal to the body to store more fat especially around the abdominal area.
- Poor sleep lowers your metabolism. This leaves more unused energy in the body which is converted to fat.
- Poor sleep makes you eat more. It triggers increased release of the hunger hormone and makes you crave high-calorie foods.
- Sleeping late increases the likelihood of late night snacking. Studies have shown that late night snacks are more likely to end up as stored fat rather than expended energy.
Quality sleep will make you more energetic, help you burn more calories during workouts, increase your metabolism and improve your dietary habits.
2. Sleep reduces fights and arguments in your relationships
An interesting study by Psychology Today tested how well couples got along when they were sleep deprived. The results were as you would expect.
They found out that couples who sleep poorly are more likely to experience serious conflicts, have more severe conflicts and have reduced ability to resolve their conflicts.
It did not matter if it is one partner or both who did not sleep well; the consequences were just as bad.
If you find yourself always arguing with your significant other, try going to bed earlier.
I can’t help but think that this also applies to other non-romantic relationships such as your kids, colleagues at work and friends.
You know how grumpy you can be at your coworkers if you slept late last night.
3. Sleep improves your sex drive
Feeling too tired for sex? Could be that you are not sleeping enough. Reduced energy, higher stress levels and just plain old tiredness drastically lower your libido.
A study involving college students found that for every extra hour of sleep, participants were 14% more likely to have sex the next day. Too much sleep also reduced sexual desire.
Women who slept longer had better vaginal lubrication and generally improved libido.
In men, poor sleep can lower testosterone levels which has an adverse effect on their desire to engage in sex.
4. Sleeping well makes you a better driver
You probably already know that drowsiness and driving don’t mix. What you may not realize is just how bad sleep deprivation can be for driving safety.
Drowsy driving is considered to be just as bad as drunk driving. In 2014, according to figures from the NHTSA, drowsy driving claimed 846 lives.
Even a little bit of fatigue and mild drowsiness can be dangerous.
Sleeping well makes you more attentive and likely to spot danger before it’s too late.
5. Sleep lowers your risk of cancer and dementia
Chronic lack of sleep is associated with increased risk of heart disease, obesity, diabetes, stroke and cancer.
People with sleep disorders like insomnia and sleep apnea are at an increased risk of various types of cancers including prostate (men), colorectal and breast cancer.
In patients already with cancer, poor sleep can make it spread more quickly and aggressively.
Researchers have also associated lack of adequate sleep, specifically REM sleep, with dementia and Alzheimer’s.
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