Surprising Benefits of Sleep You Didn’t Know
While we all know that nothing feels better than a full night of sleep, new scientific evidence says the time you spend on your mattress could be the most important thing you do for your health. The burgeoning field of sleep science is a billion dollar industry, and with that comes important studies into how our bodies respond to sleep.
Here’s what we know: sleep has steep benefits, some are fairly self evident (when you sleep more, your brain is sharper), while others are surprising (sleep curbs inflammation). We took a deep dive into recent sleep studies to give you the low-down on the science of what actually happens when you sleep.
Sleep Aids the Brain
When you get into deep REM sleep, your brain is able to secrete hormones that aid in memory retention, specifically dopamine and melatonin. Melatonin regulates sleep and allows for deep REM cycles, while Dopamine is a neural transmitter which allows for your brain to make quicker connections. These connections are vital in the process of learning and memory. If you’re feeling foggy and out of it after a sleepless night, it isn’t just a trick of your mind, there are actual physiological reactions happening on a cellular level.
“What we found is that in young, healthy adults, the deep-sleep brain waves are perfectly synchronized in time and that synchronization helps you essentially hit the ‘save button’ on your memories,” said Matthew Walker, a sleep scientist and author of a new study focused on memory and sleep.
Unfortunately, these synchronizations become harder to achieve as we age, which makes finding time and a good mattress vitally important to our mental health as we age. The results are in: more sleep can lead to less neurological problems later in life.
Sleep is Good for your Skin
It’s not just an old wives’ tale, sleeping more at night will give you better skin in the morning. One surprising study finds that people who sleep a full eight hours, actually deal with illness and inflammation better than people who do not. When we lose sleep, we build up an excess of cortisol, a stress hormone that is tied to inflammation.
“Studies have shown sleep deprivation could cause your skin to age faster. A good night’s sleep can aid good skin health because when you’re sleep-deprived, your body makes more cortisol,” says UK sleep scientist and author Hope Bastine. “Increased levels of cortisol can lead to heightened stress and inflammation in the body, harming your skin’s quality.”
Melatonin helps resolve excess levels of cortisol, flushing the harmful hormone from your body, leaving you feeling dewy – instead of puffy – after a good night’s sleep.
Sleep Makes You Live Longer
Perhaps the biggest reason to sleep more is that it will extend your life. There is heavy evidence to suggest that less than six hours of sleep can drastically shorten your lifespan.
A recent study (2010) of women ages 50 to 79 showed that more deaths occurred in women who got less than five hours of sleep per night.
“Many things that we take for granted are affected by sleep,” says Raymonde Jean, MD, director of sleep medicine and associate director of critical care at St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital Center in New York. “If you sleep better, you can certainly live better. It’s pretty clear.”
With all the new information coming out about sleep health, it’s self-evident that a full night’s sleep on a good mattress is just about the best thing you can do for your body. Make sure that you’re not taking any chances. Sleep well, your life may depend on it.