10 Surprising Health Benefits of Sleep

There are so many health benefits of sleep. People who get enough sleep each night are statistically happier, healthier, and seemingly more beautiful.

Adults ages 18 to 64 should average seven to nine hours of sleep each night, while teenagers, children, and babies need to sleep even more than that. Americans especially are chronically sleep deprived. But sacrificing sleep wreaks havoc on skin, posture, hair, weight, and even the brain.

Sleep is a critical part of a nightly beauty routine. And the best part? It’s free.

10 Surprising Health Benefits of Sleep

1. Improves Complexion

Tired skin is dry, wrinkly, red, puffy, and pimple prone. One of the many health benefits of sleep is that it improves complexion. Sleep is critical for your body to repair damaged cells, including those in your skin. Beauty brand Estée Lauder commissioned a first-of-its-kind study to research how poor sleep affects the skin, and the study indicates inadequate sleep accelerates aging and decreases the skin’s capacity to repair itself.

Women who sleep five hours or less each evening have sagging skin, uneven pigmentation, reduced elasticity, and fine lines. Women who sleep seven to nine hours nightly, on the other hand, retain skin moisture and can recover quickly after a sunburn.

2. Corrects Posture

Second on the list of health benefits of sleep is correct posture, Logging solid shut-eye hours on the right-sized mattress is critical for posture. In a survey, the National Sleep Foundation found that 92% of people believe a comfortable mattress is important for a good night’s sleep. Unfortunately, people commonly buy a mattress that’s too small, which forces them to sleep in awkward, uncomfortable positions that leave them sore and hunched over the next day.

Correct mattress size is important for beauty sleep because the body needs space to stretch out. Sleeping on an old mattress is also bad for posture because it can cause you to slouch as you deal with aches and pains. A mattress has at least a seven-year lifespan and will become soft or lumpy if it’s not replaced accordingly, adding to your overall discomfort.

3. Aids Weight Loss

The Nurse’s Health Study found that women who slept less than five hours a night had a 15% higher risk of becoming obese compared to women who slept at least seven hours a night. Women who didn’t sleep enough also had a 30% greater risk of gaining thirty pounds over the course of the study. This is because a lack of sleep increases hunger, leaving more waking hours to eat, and reduces calorie-burning energy and fat loss.

Plamen Penev, an assistant professor of medicine at the University of Chicago, says,

“If your goal is to lose fat, skipping sleep is like poking sticks in your bicycle wheels.”

In their study, Penev and colleagues found that dieters lost the same amount of weight overall when they slept for either eight and a half hours or five and a half hours a night. But these participants actually lost more fat-based weight when they got a full night’s sleep. When their sleep was compromised, they lost 55% less fat and instead lost more fat-free body mass, like protein.

4. Maintains Healthy Hair

According to the Belgravia Centre, sleep activates critical nutrients needed for hair growth. On the other hand, sleep deprivation, a form of stress, triggers hair loss and telogen effluvium, a sleep-induced scalp disorder that causes temporary hair thinning.

The hair loss treatment center also notes that 80% of men and 40% of women will experience hair loss at some point in their life, and it’s not a coincidence that one in four people also suffers from a sleep problem.

5. Reduces Dark Circles

Dark circles are a telltale sign of sleep deprivation. Commonly referred to as “raccoon eyes” or “panda eyes,” they’re one of the most noticeable skin blemishes on a person’s face. Dermatologist Dennis Gross points out that, during the day, skin protects itself from harsh elements like the sun. At night, though, the skin repairs itself, “regenerating new skin cells and cycling oxygen and nutrients.”

The body leaches oxygen from the blood when it’s sleep deprived, creating a darker tint that’s more pronounced in the thin skin under the eyes. When you get adequate sleep each evening, you increase your body’s ability to repair cells and keep dark circles at bay.

6. Fosters Positive Attitude

Psychology Today rounded up research showing that a lack of sleep makes people negative, irritable, angry, hostile, depressed, and unfriendly. And no one can fake being happy on little sleep. A sleepless brain increases activity in the amygdala region, the section of the brain designed to experience negative emotions.

Sleep is tied to emotional reactivity, so tired people are more likely to respond negatively when something bad happens to them. Sleep creates happier, more positive people.

7. Creates a Symmetrical Face

Getting the recommended amount of sleep while lying face up will keep your face symmetrical and create fewer wrinkles. Dr. Amanda Wong Powell, the clinical director of Courthouse Clinics, says she can guess the preferred sleeping positions of most of her patients just by looking at them because they have more wrinkles on one side of their face.

Squishing one side of the face into a pillow will cause permanent creases in the face and lower neckline over time. The side effects are worse for sleepers who favor one position for months on end. Wong Powell suggests switching to a face-up sleeping position.

A quality pillow is also important for proper neck support. Experts agree that there’s not a one-size-fits-all solution to pillow design, but individuals need to consider their sleep style, position, and preferred pillow filling when selecting the best pillow.

8. Gives an Approachable Appearance

People don’t want to interact with a sleep-deprived person, and people can quickly discern the amount of sleep someone logged based on that person’s appearance. The Royal Society of Open Science found that the facial and body cues of a tired person change how others perceive them. Skin tone, walking speed, dark circles, and swollen eyelids are all evidence of a sleepless night and decrease their chances of social interaction.

Those surveyed said a sleep-deprived person appears unkempt and less intelligent. Tired people also look ill, and survey respondents reported they were nervous they’d catch a contagious sickness if they approached someone who didn’t look like they had a full night’s sleep.

9. Leaves Fewer Wrinkles

Collagen regenerates during sleep, making skin elastic, plump, and wrinkle free. Despite popular belief, pricey face creams won’t work as well to repair the skin as a decent night’s rest. Dermatologist Patricia Wexler says only getting five hours of sleep a night can create twice as many fine lines as sleeping for seven hours.

Existing lines also look more visible if you’re lacking sleep because the skin becomes drier the less you sleep. The Sleep School in London even found that sleeping just six hours for five nights in a row increases fine lines and wrinkles by 45%.

10. Keeps Brain Function Healthy

Who says looks are everything? Keeping our brains healthy is far more important, most would say, when it comes to quality of life. Claire Sexton says, “We spend roughly a third of our lives asleep, and sleep has been proposed to be ‘the brain’s housekeeper,’ serving to restore and repair the brain.” Lack of sleep causes the brain to shrink, Sexton’s study in the journal of the American Academy of Neurology found.

MRI scans of participants’ brains showed a rapid decline in brain size for those who had sleep problems versus those who slept soundly. For those over the age of 60, results were even more prominent. Poor sleep in older patients can also contribute to dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

A good night’s rest is one of the best things for your body and beauty. Maintain a bedtime routine that is consistent, relaxing, and free of stimulants. Results will be evident for your skin, body, brain, hair, and personality in no time.


Hilary Thompson

Hilary Thompson is a freelance writer specializing in health and wellness. She's been featured in publications like Reader's Digest, BestLife and Today. She specializes in senior health, family sleep issues, and sleep disorders, but frequently covers a variety of topics ranging from fitness to family dynamics. A mother of two, she lives in Utah with her family and French Bulldog named Stella.

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