Surprising Health Benefits of Sleep

Sleep deprivation takes a toll on your mind, body, and overall health in ways that may surprise you.

Research shows that chronic lack of sleep is linked to colds and flu, diabetes, heart disease, mental health, and even obesity. So it’s natural to ask: Does getting adequate sleep protect you from illness? The answer, It helps.

Sleep is a quiescent period where the cells are doing a lot of repairing. Your hormones act differently when you’re asleep, and your immune system as well. If your immune system is out of whack, you can’t fight off illness, and I would venture to say that you can’t repair your cells very well, either.

Here are three key health problems that research shows are worsened by lack of sleep and may be improved by getting at least seven hours of sleep a night.

1. The Sleep Link to Colds and Flu

When you’re sleep deprived, you often feel worn down, and that’s a clue that your body is vulnerable to infection. Not getting enough sleep makes you more vulnerable to picking up illnesses and not being able to fight them off. What’s going on is your immune system is degraded. The less sleep you get, the weaker your immune system is, leaving it less able to fight off colds, flu, and other infections.

2. The Sleep Link to Heart Disease

When you don’t get enough sleep, you have an inflammatory response in your cardiovascular system in the blood vessels and arteries. We see the same thing in hypertension. If that sleep deprivation continues long term, chronic inflammation has been linked to things like heart attack, stroke, and diabetes.

3. The Sleep Link to Diabetes

The key underlying problem in type 2 diabetes is insulin resistance, where the body does not make proper use of this sugar-processing hormone. When you’re sleep deprived, your body almost immediately develops conditions that resemble the insulin resistance of diabetes.

In one study of young, healthy adult males, they decreased their sleep time to about four hours per night for six nights. At the end of those six nights, every one of those healthy young men was showing impaired glucose tolerance, a precursor to developing diabetes.

So, now that finals are over. It’s important for people to catch up on that precious sleep that many students have lost.

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