Sleep BenefitsYou may see sleep as a time when your body and brain shutdown for rest and relaxation, but certain bodily functions are actually more active while you are sleeping then while you are awake.
While you are asleep, your brain is hard at work forging the pathways necessary for solidifying memories and gaining new insights. People who have trouble learning new skills are often advised to “sleep on it,” and that advice is well founded. People who are taught mentally challenging tasks do better after a good night’s sleep. They remember better what they learned, pay better attention, make good decisions and respond quicker.
While you sleep, your body secretes vital hormones. Deep sleep triggers more release of growth hormone, fueling growth in children, building muscle mass and repairing tissues after injury in both children and adults.
Another type of hormone helps your body fight infections. This might explain why a good night’s sleep contributes to keeping you well and helping you recover when you get sick.
Even your diet and weight are influenced by the hormones secreted while you sleep. These hormones influence how hungry you feel, and whether you crave foods high in calories and carbohydrates. People who sleep an average of 5 hours or fewer a night are more likely to become obese than people who sleep 7 to 8 hours a night.
Chronically depriving your body of adequate sleep can alter blood sugar levels that boost your risk of developing diabetes.
Last, but not least, getting adequate sleep can also improve your mood. You tend to be less irritable after a good night’s sleep and less prone to depression.
Children tend to behave better if they have adequate sleep, and adults may have less troubled relationships if they get enough good quality sleep.
So how do you get a good night’s sleep and reap all the benefits? Don’t worry—your body has built in systems to help you feel drowsy at night and alert in the morning. But for these systems to work properly, you need to help. See “The Do’s and Don’ts of Getting Good Sleep” to find out more.
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