Why (Good) Sleep Is Essential for Health

by Erica Garza

Our need for a good night's sleep is one of the earliest health lessons we learn but one of the last we prioritize. If you suffer from insomnia like one in four Americans or rarely wake up feeling refreshed, you may not realize that your poor sleeping habits are compromising your overall health, including your body weight, your mood and your skin. Here are some of the benefits of sleeping well and how to get more deep sleep, starting tonight.

Stronger Immune System

When we skip sleep, our immune system suffers. Researchers from Germany have discovered that sleep has the potential to improve T cell function, which plays an important role in fighting pathogens. Stress hormones, which inhibit T cell activity, dip when we are in deep sleep. When sleep is poor, stress hormones run rampant, which can cause inflammation and make us more susceptible to diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease.

Healthy Weight

Quality sleep can also help us maintain a healthy weight. Studies show that when people do not get enough sleep, they have increased levels of the hunger hormone ghrelin and decreased levels of the fullness hormone leptin, which could lead to overeating and weight gain. Researchers have also found that the stress hormone cortisol climbs with sleep deprivation, which can negatively affect decision making, especially when it comes to making sensible food choices.

Positive Mood

Better sleep leads to a better mood. When we are deprived of sleep, we are more likely to feel irritable, anxious or depressed. And some studies show that when sleep is interrupted this impacts mood even more negatively, even when the reduction in total sleep time is similar. Sleep also supports memory and learning, so we can be productive and positive.

Clearer Skin

There’s a reason they call it “beauty sleep.” Research shows that one night of poor sleep can cause paler skin, dark circles under the eyes and wrinkles. Poor-quality sleep accelerates aging of the skin and inhibits its recovery from environmental stressors such as sun exposure.

How to Improve Your Sleep

From limiting screen time to taking CBD, here are some steps you can take to fall asleep faster and stay asleep through the night.

Limit Screen Time Before Bed

Looking at screens in the evening hours can disrupt our sleep patterns due to the effects of blue light. Power down your smartphone, laptop and tablet to keep your body’s circadian rhythm on track.

Have a Relaxing Pre-Bedtime Ritual

Try integrating a gentle yoga practice or meditation into your bedtime routine to wind down and reach relaxation. You may also need to transform your bedroom into a sleep sanctuary by aiming for an optimal temperature between 60 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit.

CBD

Instead of that evening glass of wine, which is loaded with sugar and apt to hijack quality sleep, consider taking CBD before bed. CBD has been shown to induce deeper REM sleep and has even been successful in treating insomnia. Furthermore, studies show that CBD can relieve pain and quell anxiety, which are notorious for interfering with sleep.

Ready to revamp your health for good? Aim for 7 to 9 hours of sleep tonight, and check out these healthy sleep tips from The National Sleep Foundation.

Erica Garza is an author and essayist. Her work has appeared in TIME, Health, Glamour, Good Housekeeping, Women's Health, The Telegraph and VICE. She lives in Los Angeles.