Health Benefits of a Good Night’s Sleep

The importance of quality sleep and the benefits of good ‘sleep hygiene’ are well documented. Nevertheless, more and more studies suggest that the vast majority of people are still far off the mark when it comes to sleep. Too much sleep has some downsides, though these are overshadowed by insufficient sleep, which can have catastrophic consequences on a person's health.

On the plus side, sleep does tend to be one of the few things in life we actually have a great deal of control and influence over. It often takes time and effort to modify and adapt habits for the sake of improving sleep, but it is the kind of effort that repays itself many times over. As is the case with so many things, it’s not until you improve your sleeping habits and routines that you really gain an understanding of just how positive a change you have made.

So just to put the subject in some kind of perspective, here’s a quick rundown of some well-documented benefits of a good night’s sleep, along with a few helpful tips for improving sleep quality.

Improved Memory

First of all, while the vast majority of your body may be relatively motionless throughout the night, your brain is anything but. While you sleep, a process takes place known as consolidation, which basically involves your brain automatically working with the information, knowledge and practices it was exposed to during the day. The result of all this processing is improved memory and the ability to learn faster the following day.

Weight Loss

In order for the body to function as efficiently as possible, it needs plenty of sleep. When the body cannot function as efficiently as it might, weight gain becomes more likely and weight loss more difficult. As such, there is a direct correlation between healthy sleep patterns and weight loss/weight management.

Reduced Inflammation

Inflammation is responsible for triggering everything from arthritis to diabetes to stroke to heart disease as well as many other health complaints. Research suggests that when individuals sleep for less than 6 hours every night, they are inherently more likely to suffer inflammation than those sleeping a minimum of 8 hours per night.

Better Dietary Choices

Something else to bear in mind is that when your body is tired, it craves the kinds of foods and drinks that give it an instant and heavy dose of fat, sugar and calories in general. This is precisely why you are statistically most likely to crave junk food when tired, hungover or sick. By contrast, a well-rested body allows the individual in question to make much healthier dietary choices, day in and day out.

Mood Enhancement

Regardless of who you are and your general approach to life, the amount of sleep you get will have an impact on your day to day mood. Insufficient sleep leads to grumpiness and negativity, while positive sleep patterns lead to positivity, optimism and general happiness. Sleep may not be the only key to everyday happiness, but it certainly helps!

Improved Athletic Performance

Unsurprisingly, it isn’t easy to perform at your full potential in any kind of sport or activity if you are lacking the sleep your body needs. The body and mind alike both need sufficient sleep in order to reach their full potential – attempting to compete while tired almost guarantees poor performance.

Improved Strength

If you’re the kind of individual who’s partial to working out in the gym or generally remaining active at all times, sleep is critical to allowing your body to repair, regenerate and generally grow in strength. The importance of plenty of downtime following heavy exercise sessions is well-documented, but the most important work actually happens while you are asleep.

Better Sleep

It might sound rather odd to speak of better sleep being a benefit of better sleep, but it is indeed a self-perpetuating cycle. By getting into positive sleep habits, you will naturally find it easier to drift off to sleep every night and will enjoy deeper, healthier sleep as standard. By contrast, those who have poor sleeping habits and routines tend to find it infinitely more difficult to sleep, despite the fact that they need to sleep more than anyone else!

Reduced Depression Risk

Last but not least, a wide variety of studies have also highlighted the way in which sleep patterns show direct links with the likelihood of the individual in question developing depression. Just as positive sleeping habits reduce depression risk, insufficient sleep can have the exact opposite effect. A good place to start if you’d like more information on this subject is the National Sleep Foundation website.

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Making it Happen

One of the simplest things you can do to improve your chances of a good night’s sleep is to sleep in a comfortable, high-quality down duvet. Along with ensuring you have a comfortable bed, there are a few other things you can do to reap the benefits of seriously satisfying sleep, such as:

  • Ditch the Device – Research has shown that a specific spectrum of light known as ‘blue light’ is emitted from most electronic screens and can have an adverse effect on healthy sleep. From tablets and smartphones to computer screens and televisions, ditching devices before bed can make a big difference when it comes to getting a good night's sleep.
  • No Napping – Unsurprisingly, napping too frequently or for long periods throughout the day can also have an adverse effect on sleep quality in the evening.
  • Eat Well – Dietary habits are directly connected with sleep in more ways than one – greasy, heavy, sugary and generally unhealthy meals don’t promote positive sleeping patterns.
  • Routine – There’s really nothing more important than routine when it comes to getting your body used to sleeping at a certain time and being awake at a other times. Mixing it up is never a good idea.
  • Sleep Only – Last but not least, experts generally recommend that the bed itself be reserved only for sleeping and any other activities traditionally associated with the bedroom, activities which don’t need explaining. Other activities such as eating, watching movies, reading and generally lounging around are best kept away from the bed. Only ever go to bed for the purposes for which it was created.