May 10, 2010

The Benefits of Sleep and How to Get Them, Pt. 1

Question: How did you sleep last night?

This simple question is often overlooked when trying to pinpoint the cause of problems in our daily lives -- problems like feeling tired, back pain, trouble concentrating, unusually high stress, and depression. These are just some of the issues that can stem from lack of quality sleep.

Researchers have only recently begun to discover that sleep has innumerable health benefits; sleep deprivation, on the other hand, can seriously hinder the most basic body functions and impair cognitive abilities.

May is national Better Sleep Month, making it the perfect time to re-evaluate your sleeping habits. In this two-part series, we'll explore the many benefits sleep can provide, as well as several ways you can improve the quality of your sleep.

Before getting started, let's see how much sleep you should be getting. These numbers may change depending on your age, lifestyle, and overall health. Check with your doctor before making any changes to your sleep habits. On average, experts recommend the following sleep times:

Infants: 16 hours a day

Young Children: 10-14 hours a day

Teenagers: 9 hours a day

Adults and Older Adults: 7-9 hours a day

Pregnant Women: Several extra hours a day during the first trimester

Getting a good night's sleep every night can yield the following health benefits:

Heart Health – Heart attacks and strokes most commonly occur during the early morning hours. This may be explained by the way sleep interacts with the blood vessels. Lack of sleep has been associated with worsening of blood pressure and cholesterol, all risk factors for heart disease and stroke. Sufficient sleep can lead to a healthier heart.

Cancer Prevention – Researchers believe that melatonin, a hormone that induces and maintains sleep, can also protect against certain types of cancer and suppress the growth of tumors. Exposure to light reduces melatonin production, so be sure your room is dark when you sleep.

Youth Extension – Stress-related hormones can raise the level of inflammation in your body, creating more risk for heart-related conditions, as well as cancer and diabetes. Inflammation is thought to be one of the causes of deterioration of your body as you age. Sleep can help decrease the level of inflammation in your body.

Body Reparation – Sleep is a time for your body to repair damage caused by stress, UV rays, and other harmful exposures. While you sleep, your cells produce more protein molecules, which form the building blocks for cells, allowing them to repair damage.

Memory Boost – While you sleep, your brain is busy processing your day, making connections between events, sensory input, feelings, and memories. This is a process known as memory consolidation. Getting more quality sleep will help you remember and process things better.

Alertness – A good night's sleep makes you feel energized and alert the next day. Being engaged and active not only feels great, it increases your chances for another good night's sleep. When you wake up feeling refreshed, use that energy to get out into the daylight, be active, and engage in your world. You'll sleep better the next night and increase your daily energy level.

Weight Loss – Researchers have found that people who sleep less than seven hours a night are more likely to be overweight or obese. It is believed that the lack of sleep disrupts the balance of hormones that affect appetite. So if you're trying to lose weight and have hit a plateau, make sure you're getting a good night's sleep.

Be sure to check in next week when we look at several things you can do to ensure you get a good night’s sleep.

Narratives are for entertainment purposes only and frequently employ literary point of view; the narratives do not necessarily reflect the opinions of El Dorado Furniture, its officers, or employees.


"Consumers Connect Quality Bedding to Quality Sleep and Quality of Life," The Better Sleep Council Website, (accessed May 10, 2010).

Stibich, Mark, Ph.D. "Getting Enough Sleep," Website, October 30,2008, (accessed May 10, 2010).

Stibich, Mark, Ph.D. "Top 10 Health Benefits of a Good Night's Sleep," Website, May 8, 2009, (accessed May 10, 2010).