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Ten benefits of getting a good night's sleep

Jane Murphy / 09 May 2017 ( 21 January 2021 )

We look at some of the ways getting plenty of sleep is good for your body and mind.

Man sleeping
A good night's sleep can wash away the toxins that build up during a hard day's thinking

Think you can get away with just a few hours' slumber? Think again. Here are ten very good reasons why you need to tackle your sleep problem.

1. You'll get more done in the daytime

Getting less than seven hours' sleep can have a hugely negative impact on productivity during the day, according to a new study from Cambridge University and Rand Europe. Just an extra hour can make all the difference. Researchers looked at the lifestyle habits of 21,000 people in the UK and found that those who had six hours or less sleep were noticeably less productive than those who had at least seven.

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2. It'll stop you making bad food choices

It's probably no great surprise to learn that the less you sleep, the more you're likely to eat – putting you at risk of conditions such as obesity, heart disease and type 2 diabetes. But it's not just because those extra waking hours provide more opportunities to raid the biscuit tin. Tiredness leads to hormonal changes that raise the appetite and boost stress levels, according to research from the University of Nebraska. And when we're feeling stressed, of course, we're more likely to comfort-eat.

Take control of your snacking

3. You could cut your risk of diabetes

Losing just 30 minutes of sleep a night throughout the week could put you at increased risk of diabetes, say researchers from the University of Bristol and Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar. The reason? It's all down to hormone disruption again. When the body clock is thrown out of sync due to lost sleep, our natural hormonal rhythms are disrupted. This can trigger problems such as insulin resistance, which may lead to type 2 diabetes.

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4. It 'cleans' your brain

A good night's sleep can wash away the toxins that build up during a hard day's thinking, according to a study from the University of Rochester in the US. Scientists discovered that brain cells temporarily shrink during sleep in order to open up gaps to allow fluid to wash the mind clean. They also suggest that failure to clear away some toxic proteins could play a part in the development of brain disorders, such as Alzheimer's.

Other ways to reduce your risk of dementia

5. You're less likely to have a heart attack

Sleeping for seven hours or more each night can reduce risk of heart disease by up to 24 per cent, says a major study from the Netherlands. But that's not all: it seems getting enough slumber is just as important as other key lifestyle factors. When sufficient sleep duration is added to the four main accepted healthy habits - regular exercise, a balanced diet, not smoking and safe alcohol consumption - it results in a 65 per cent lower risk of heart disease and 83% lower risk of a fatal heart attack.

6. You could have healthier bones

Chronic lack of sleep may lead to bone and bone marrow abnormalities, say researchers at the Medical College of Wisconsin in the US. In a study on rats, sleep deprivation was found to slow new bone formation and decrease bone density, while fat levels in the bone marrow dipped and platelet levels rose, leading to a dip in flexibility. 

What to eat for healthier bones

7. You'll make better decisions

Believe it or not, you're more likely to cheat on your partner if you don't have enough sleep. That's according to Christopher M Barnes from the University of Washington, who outlined his findings in the Harvard Business Review. The pre-frontal cortex - the part of the brain that governs self-control - is greatly influenced by lack of sleep. The area is powered by glucose, which is replenished while you rest. And that means you're more likely to make a poor decision if you haven't had enough slumber. 

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8. You'll feel more attractive

Women who sleep badly are more likely to rate themselves as unattractive, according to research from the University Hospitals Case Medical Center in the US. And there may be good reason for this. Scientists also discovered that lack of restorative sleep can double signs of skin ageing, such as fine lines, uneven colour and lack of elasticity.

Looking and feeling tired? Find out how to look less tired and more awake during the day.

9. You'll cut your stroke risk

Regularly sleeping less than six hours each night is associated with a four-fold increase in stroke risk, according to a study from the University of Alabama. And the effect still applies to adults who are a healthy weight. But researchers believe lack of sleep influences other known risk factors, such as blood pressure and hormone balance.

How to reduce your risk of stroke

10. You'll have fewer arguments

You probably don't need us to tell you that tiredness can make you grumpy - particularly with your nearest and dearest. A third of us take our tiredness out on our partners, according to a recent survey for Kalms. So ensure you both sleep well – and you can look forward to a confrontation-free day ahead.

Struggling to sleep? Try one of these unusual ways to get to sleep, or find out the solutions to common sleep problems

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The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated. The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.

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