Busy people prioritize pretty much everything else over hours spent in bed, but the case for why you should get more sleep might be more convincing than you realize.
It’s not just about waking up bright-eyed and bushy-tailed every morning, with energy to seize the day. (Although that’s a nice side effect!) Skimping on sleep seriously affects your health on multiple levels—from your mental state to how often you end up miserable with the flu.
Still thinking you’ve got to stay up to watch Girls and then wake up at 5:00 a.m. to make a pre-work workout class? Consider these five science-backed reasons to get more sleep, first.
The research is pretty conclusive: getting enough sleep is key to weight management. When you sleep more, you simply have less time to eat, and some studies have shown you may also make better food choices. But it’s deeper than that. Those who are sleep deprived have higher levels of ghrelin—a hormone that stimulates appetite—circulating in their blood, which causes an increase in hunger. In other words, your body’s hormonal response to being tired is to tell you to eat more. (Thanks a lot, body.)
Studies suggest that sleep flushes out toxins that accumulate in your brain during the day, and that process could benefit functions like reasoning and memory over the long term. There’s also major overlap between individuals with sleep disorders and conditions like depression and anxiety. (Although the research is not clear on whether lack of sleep leads to mental health issues or issues like depression cause sleep disorders…or both.) Bonus: Getting enough sleep is going to give you the energy to engage in other healthy habits proven to protect your brain—like exercising and making healthy food choices.
In a 2011 study, women who reported sleep deprivation had higher levels of biomarkers for inflammation associated with cardiovascular disease and stroke. A 2010 research review found “short sleep duration” is associated with high blood pressure, which is also a risk factor for heart disease.
Speaking of inflammation, sleep is a major regulator of immune system processes. Research shows not getting enough sleep over a long period of time creates a stress response that promotes chronic inflammation and weakens the immune system’s defenses against disease. Translation: less sleep equals more sick days.