Sleeping Beauty: What Sleep Does for Your Health & Happiness

Beauty sleep is a real thing—science has confirmed the positive beauty effects of a good night’s rest many times over. But did you know that this miraculous thing called sleep is so much more than a natural beauty elixir? Discover what sleep does for your body, mind and soul.

 

There was a time when people went to bed at sunset and woke at sunrise. Our ancestors did not have alarm clocks, snooze buttons or early morning meetings to get to—they simply based their sleep patterns on the natural light-dark cycle of the sun. But as with many other things in life, maintaining a healthy sleep cycle has become somewhat of a challenge in modern times. With demanding schedules, long hours at work and smartphones that are constantly buzzing and flashing, it can be difficult to get enough sleep.

 

But no matter how hectic and demanding modern life can be, skimping on sleep is never a good idea. Sleep is an amazing thing, and getting enough of it is of vital importance for your health and overall well-being. If you sleep better, you don’t just look better—you live better. Here are 6 ways sleep can make you happier and healthier.

 

1. Sleep helps you look your best

Sleep may be the closest thing there is to a fountain of youth. During deep sleep, your brain releases the growth hormone responsible for rebuilding cells and repairing damaged tissues. This growth hormone only functions at night and can work wonders for your skin. The skin cells themselves also go into renewal mode while you’re sleeping, speeding up skin cell metabolism and regenerating faster than at any time during the day. And as if all those fresh, healthy cells weren’t enough, your body also increases the blood supply to your skin during sleep, which is why your cheeks turn warm and rosy when you snooze. While sleep deprivation can cause dull or ashy skin, a good night’s rest will give you a natural radiant flush that lasts all day.

 

2. Sleep strengthens the immune system

Researchers have found evidence for what our parents have been telling us all along: that the best thing we can do when we’re sick is to stay in bed and sleep as much as we can. Sleeping helps you fight off the flu and other illnesses, because your body produces disease-fighting proteins called cytokines when you sleep. If you tend to get sick a lot, that could mean you’re not getting enough shut-eye. To strengthen your body’s natural defence system, try an earlier bedtime or start grabbing naps during the day.

 

3. Sleep helps you fix problems

If you’re faced with a dilemma, it’s a good idea to sleep on it before you make a decision. Research tells us that sleep promotes creative problem-solving, because it allows you to access the massive wealth of knowledge and memories stored in your brain. This is known as “spreading activation”. Your resting brain seeks associations that don’t immediately come to mind during wakefulness, which allows you to come up with creative solutions to your most challenging problems using information you didn’t know you had.

 

4. Sleep reduces stress

Sleep and stress have a two-way relationship. Stress can cause a lack of sleep and, in turn, a lack of sleep will cause stress. It’s a vicious cycle that can be very difficult to escape from. However, it does offer the possibility of managing stress by managing sleep. Not only will better sleep allow your body and mind to recover from daily stresses, you will also experience less stress from daily events when you’re well-rested. Life’s challenges seem a lot less stressful after a solid 8 hours of sleep.

 

5. Sleep helps you lose weight

If you’re trying to get in shape, hitting the hay can be just as effective as hitting the gym. A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that normal sleepers burn more calories during the day than people who aren’t getting enough sleep. Researchers from the University of Chicago found that being well-rested boosts fat loss, and another study from the journal Obesity showed that tired people take in more unhealthy, calorie-dense foods. So there’s plenty of scientific evidence that supports you in your decision to hit the snooze button one more time. Another plus of going to bed early is that you’ll sleep through evening cravings, which means you won’t succumb to late-night snacking.

 

6. Sleep is good for your relationships

Sleep doesn’t just work wonders for your mental and physical well-being, it also keeps your relationships healthy. Poor sleep makes us more irritable and short-tempered, and it leaves us with little energy for others. It also impairs our ability to empathise, making us less attuned to how our friends and loved ones are feeling. Basically, we’re just a lot more fun to be around when we’re well-rested. It’s true that great relationships take work and effort—but sometimes, all you need to do is put in some extra hours of sleep.