Day 7: Discover the surprising benefits of quality sleep

Congratulations! You’re halfway through 14 Days to Soulful Sleep! Along with wind-down stretches to try today, Dr. Harris reveals some surprising benefits of quality sleep, to keep you motivated into week two and beyond.

 

Day 7 Article: Surprising benefits of a good night’s sleep

You’ve completed the first half of 14 days to Soulful Sleep – congratulations! Now stay motivated for week two by discovering these holistic benefits of a good night’s rest...

 

1. Problem solver

“There is good reason that people advise to ‘sleep on a problem’,” says Dr Shelby Harris. “Research has shown that when you’re in the deep section of sleep called REM (Rapid Eye Movement), your brain can solve problems far better because it can access the massive wealth of knowledge and memories to connect things together. When you wake, you have much more clarity on how to deal with problems. This is known as ‘spreading activation’ and your brain can’t do it when you’re awake.”

 

2. Immunity booster

Research from University of California San Francisco has found that people who sleep six hours or less a night are four more times likely to catch a cold. “This is because your body produces disease-fighting proteins called cytokines when you sleep, so a prolonged lack of sleep means your immune system will be compromised,” explains Dr Harris. “You will also find it takes longer to get rid of a cold. To strengthen your body’s natural defence system, try an earlier bedtime or take a 20-minute nap during the day, provided it doesn’t make your night time sleep worse.”

 

3. Complexion enhancer

“Elasticity and collagen production occurs in deep sleep,” explains Dr Harris “So when you sleep well, your skin will be clearer, more taut and look younger. And studies have shown that people with very poor sleep have more dark circles under their eyes and look older.” Skin cells also go into renewal mode, speeding up skin cell metabolism and regenerating faster than at any time during the day. And as if all those fresh, plump, healthy cells weren’t enough, the blood supply to your skin also increases, which is why your cheeks turn rosy when you snooze.

 

4. Relationship repairer

Sleep doesn’t just work wonders for your mental and physical wellbeing, it also keeps your relationships healthy. “When you sleep well you think clearer, you’re not as irritable and your emotional functioning is better,” explains Dr Harris. “Which means you’re going to be more empathetic, understanding and better equipped to navigate any of the normal disagreements and conflicts that happen in relationships, whether that’s with your partner, friends or family.”

 

5. Scalp saviour

When we sleep badly our levels of stress hormone, cortisol, increase. One of the knock-on effects with too much cortisol in our system is that it signals to our hair follicles to move from the growth phase to the shedding phase meaning you will lose more hair than you should. It also encourages the glands that produce oil to go into overdrive. When we have a good night’s sleep our hair continues in its natural growth cycle. It won’t shed unnecessarily and greasy roots will only occur when you expect them to.

Day 7 Exercise: Wind-down stretches to help you switch off

After a long day, stretching is the perfect way to relax and reconnect with your body. Try this simple flow as part of your wind-down routine to work out any physical tension, and create a moment for yourself.

 

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