Written by: Lana Adler
Updated March 3, 2021
You may have noticed that when you don’t sleep well, you don’t feel well. You might become grumpy or unmotivated and crave junk foods more than usual. Maybe you have trouble focusing or keeping your emotions in check. These are all signs of sleep deprivation.
Unfortunately, one in three Americans (1) feels this way on a regular basis. Fortunately, getting more sleep can lift your mood, boost your energy levels, and improve your performance. Overall, people who feel well-rested are more likely to report having a better quality of life (2).
Here are five benefits of being well-rested:
1. You Feel Happier
One benefit of a good night's sleep is improved mood (3) and mental health. While you sleep, your brain works to restore your mind and body. In REM sleep specifically, your brain focuses on restoring your mind. That involves processing your emotions (4) and new learnings from the day, so you’re better prepared to meet the social and emotional demands (5) of tomorrow.
As you cycle through the stages of sleep each night, you spend increasing amounts of time in REM sleep with each new cycle. When your sleep gets interrupted or cut short, your REM sleep suffers most of all — leading to the emotional effects of sleep deprivation.
Short sleepers are more likely to get angry and have emotional outbursts (6). Sleep problems are also associated with a greater risk of mental health disorders (7), like anxiety, depression, PTSD, and bipolar disorder. Treating these conditions often involves addressing the associated sleep issues, since better sleep can help relieve symptoms.
When you’re well-rested, on the other hand, you feel much better. As a result, you’re more able to manage stress (8), and face your fears.
2. Your Mind and Memory Get Sharper
Recent research suggests that both deep sleep, as well as REM, are involved in consolidating memories (9). In other words, missing out on sleep can make you more forgetful.
Fortunately, receiving more sleep can improve your memory, which may help you perform better at work, school, and in your day-to-day life. For example, one study compared the memory skills of two student groups before and after a full night’s sleep. The group who took the test after they slept scored 20% better (10). During times of intense studying, or when you’re learning something new, your brain responds by increasing REM sleep, which may assist with committing that new information to memory.
Benefits of increased sleep extend into working life. Workers who enjoy better sleep report higher levels of work engagement (11). A short break in the afternoon can yield even better results, so don’t feel guilty about that mid-afternoon coffee nap!
3. You Feel Stronger and in Better Shape
All the energy your body uses for physical activity during the day, from walking around the house to a vigorous weightlifting session, is restored while you sleep (12). Sleep rejuvenates you, enabling you to wake up without feeling tired the next day.
The fitness benefits of sleep are significant. One study of Stanford University basketball players found that when they increased their sleep to up to 10 hours per night over a period of several weeks, their shooting accuracy, reaction times, and sprint times all improved (13). They felt less fatigued, and reported feeling better both physically and mentally during practices and games.
Serious athletes tend to need more sleep than the average person, due to their bodies' increased levels of exertion. Their brains respond by spending more time in deep sleep (14), just as the brain responds to intense learning by increasing REM sleep. In deep sleep, your body repairs your muscle tissue and releases more growth hormone. Good sleep is also associated with more muscle mass and increased muscle strength (15).
The improved mood you experience from adequate sleep can also help with athletic performance. When you feel more energized and motivated, it’s easier to push yourself toward your goals (16). Fatigue has the opposite effect, decreasing athletic endurance.
4. You’re Less Hungry
It’s easier to stick to a diet when you’re well-rested. Your sleep cycles are run by your circadian rhythm, an internal body clock that also regulates your hormone levels, determining when you feel tired, hungry, and more.
Two key hormones play a role in appetite regulation. Ghrelin increases appetite when you’re hungry, while leptin inhibits it when you’re full. People who are short sleepers have lower leptin levels, and higher ghrelin levels (17), helping explain the correlation among body mass index and chronic lack of sleep. But even just one night of sleep deprivation can increase ghrelin levels (18), leading to feelings of hunger and increased cravings for fatty and sugary foods.
When you’re well-rested, your leptin levels do a better job telling your brain when you’re full, enabling you to maintain a healthy weight and enjoy the benefits of good sleep.
5. You Look Great
Good sleepers exhibit fewer signs of aging (20) and have better skin health. Their skin bounces back much more quickly after abrasions. Also, they are more likely to feel satisfied with their appearance.
People who are sleep-deprived, on the other hand, feel worse about their appearance — and others agree with them. Overall, sleep-deprived individuals are seen as less attractive (21) and less healthy. People tend to notice their red or puffy eyes, dark circles, wrinkles, and droopiness around the mouth (22).
Of course, the immune system benefits of sleep extend beyond good looks and reduced skin inflammation. When you don’t sleep enough, you increase your risk of infection (23) and of developing a cardiovascular or metabolic disorder. To keep your immune system healthy, you need adequate sleep.
Improve Your Sleep, Improve Your Life
When we’re well-rested, we feel better. It’s as simple as that. Being well-rested isn’t only about receiving the recommended 7 to 9 hours of sleep, though. It’s also about making your sleep as restful as possible, so you feel refreshed and restored upon waking up. There are changes you can make, such as upgrading your bedroom, that lead to better sleep.
- https://www.cdc.gov/sleep/data_statistics.html Accessed on February 10, 2021.
- https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22709334/ Accessed on February 10, 2021.
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- https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23099143/ Accessed on February 10, 2021.
- https://health.gov/myhealthfinder/topics/everyday-healthy-living/mental-health-and-relationships/get-enough-sleep Accessed on February 10, 2021.
- https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23589831/ Accessed on February 10, 2021.
- https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22879917/ Accessed on February 10, 2021.
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- https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23997369/ Accessed on February 10, 2021.
- https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/work-hour-training-for-nurses/longhours/mod2/05.html Accessed on February 10, 2021.