Getting enough sleep can do wonders for your health—here's what you need to know.

Andrea Mathis, M.A., R.D.N., L.D.; Reviewed by Victoria Seaver, M.S., R.D.
September 18, 2020
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It's no secret that most of us don't get enough sleep. Between our busy jobs and our busy home lives, getting the proper amount of sleep tends to get put on the back burner. You may not realize this, but a lack of sleep can affect your daily activity regimen. According to the National Sleep Foundation, 45% of Americans say that poor or insufficient sleep affected their daily activities at least once in the past seven days.

In addition to the effects on daily activities, a lack of sleep can also affect your quality of health. Findings from the Sleep Healthy Index showed that 67% of those with less than good sleep quality also reported "poor" or "only fair" health, with 27% reporting otherwise "good" health.

So, how much sleep do we need?

Most of us need seven to nine hours of sleep each night, according to the National Sleep Foundation. Babies, young children and teens need even more sleep to support their growth and development. We generally tend to consider eight hours of sleep as the proper amount of rest, but some people may need more or less. To help determine the right amount for you, do a simple sleep evaluation. If you wake up tired and spend the day craving a nap, it's likely that you're not getting enough sleep. If this is the case, try adding another hour of sleep to your usual amount.

What happens to your body when you actually get enough sleep?

Sleep plays an important role in our health and comes with some great benefits. Here are a few perks of a good night's sleep:

Boosts Your Immunity

When you allow your body to get enough sleep, it helps to boost your immune system to fight off those pesky germs. Getting the proper amount of sleep helps your body produce sufficient amounts of cytokines, a type of protein that targets infection and inflammation—creating an immune response. Cytokines are produced and released during sleep. Without enough sleep, your body would not be able to produce enough cytokines to fight off those infections.

Improves Heart Health

Did you know that getting a sufficient amount of sleep is linked to a healthier heart? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, adults who sleep less than seven hours each night are more likely to experience health problems such as heart attacks and high blood pressure. When you get a sufficient amount of sleep, your blood pressure goes down. Not getting enough sleep can cause your blood pressure to go higher for a longer amount of time, causing additional health concerns.

Stabilizes Your Weight

In addition to eating a well-balanced diet and exercising, sleep is also necessary for maintaining a healthy body weight. Sleep and weight have been linked by scientists for quite some time. Studies show that a decreased amount of sleep was linked to increased weight, and continued unwanted weight gain over time. Middle-aged adults who slept fewer than seven hours per night had higher weights per height, and were more likely to be obese than those who slept seven or more hours.

Results in Healthier Skin

Did you know that "beauty rest" is a real thing? During sleep, your body delivers fluids to organs and tissues that need replenishing, while removing excess fluids from other areas. Sleep also allows the body to make more collagen, which causes smoother skin. Research shows that these processes can help to reduce the appearance of drooping eyelids, swollen eyes, dark under-eye circles, wrinkles and fine lines.

The Bottom Line

Sleep plays an important role in our lives and can affect our daily activity regimen. Getting a good night's sleep can offer some great health benefits, such as boosting immunity, improving heart health, stabilizing your weight and maintaining healthier skin. If you're having trouble getting enough shut-eye, check out these four ways to get a better night's sleep.