6 Reasons You Need More Sleep

SHAPE magazine
Get more sleep tonight!
Get more sleep tonight!

It's always nice to get more sleep! Just in case you need a legitimate reason to hit the snooze button once or twice, we've rounded up six healthy benefits of a good night's sleep:

1. Sleep curbs unhealthy cravings: Although most people get around five to seven hours of sleep a night, experts caution that number should really be somewhere closer to eight hours of sleep. "The problem with being chronically sleep-deprived (as in, missing one to two hours nightly) is that the body perceives the sleep loss as a "stress," which increases levels of stress hormones, such as cortisol (which interferes with insulin function)," says Shawn Talbott, nutritional biochemist and author of The Secret Vigor: How to Overcome Burnout, Restore Biochemical Balance, and Reclaim Your Natural Energy. That means blood sugar regulation is compromised and you'll crave more sweets and junk food. The increased appetite for unhealthy snacks puts you at risk for abdominal weight gain, diabetes and obesity. Yikes!

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2. Sleep repairs cells: When we sleep, our body helps repair and rebuild cells more efficiently, says Len Saunders, author of Keeping Kids Fit. "This will also help strengthen our immune system to fight sickness and disease," he explains.

3. Sleep improves your memory: The right amount of sleep can improve your memory, creativity, and awareness. "Another job our body performs more effectively while we sleep is repairing neurons in the cerebral cortex of the brain, which is related to improving memory and concentration," Saunders explains.

4. Sleep prevents illness: Not only can enough sleep keep you at a healthy weight, it can also help prevent medical illnesses. "Sleep deprivation is often derived from an untreated sleep disorder, such as sleep apnea or snoring and can cause serious medical illnesses such as high blood pressure and heart failure," says Dr. David Volpi, Founder of Eos Sleep (formerly Manhattan Snoring & Sleep Center).

5. Sleep boosts your energy level: Some of the most obvious benefits of getting enough sleep are improved energy, vitality and endurance, says Randy Ganther, weight loss expert. With enough sleep, you'll be able to function the best of your ability at work, during your workouts and even during sex.

6. Sleep can beat depression: If you get an adequate amount of sleep, you improve your mood. Insomnia increases your risk for depression and anxiety, says Elizabeth Lombardo, psychologist and author of A Happy You: Your Ultimate Prescription for Happiness. But Lombardo cautions that there is such a thing as too much sleep. For instance, people who are depressed often sleep 12 or more hours a night.

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How to get more sleep tonight:
Daniel Cohen, a holistic health and wellness counselor, suggests the following tips to help you get more sleep:
1. Get into a routine. Try going to bed half an hour earlier each week or set a bedtime. This will get your body used to a schedule.

2. Relax before bed. Turning the television off and taking some time out for yourself before bedtime, whether it be relaxing with a good book or meditating. This will help reset your brain and get it into sleep mode.

3. Cut out the caffeine! As we all know, caffeine keeps us stay alert and ready to start the day. If you are the type of person that gets a jolt from caffeine, cutting it out four to six hours before bedtime can help ensure that you get a restful night's sleep.

4. Eat a high-protein snack before bed. This can provide the L-tryptophan your body needs to process melatonin and serotonin.

5. Avoid alcohol. You may think that having a drink before bed might make you sleepy, but the effects are short lived. You will often awake several hours later, unable to fall back to sleep.

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