10 Immediate Effects of Getting Enough Sleep

10 Immediate Effects of Getting Enough Sleep
Natalie Stein

Exercise, Fitness & Nutrition Expert | Lark Health

Do you get enough high-quality sleep, or are you chronically sleep-deprived? Sleep is so important to quality of life and health that Lark includes sleep coaching and has an entire mission dedicated to getting enough sleep.

Getting enough sleep improves long-term health risks, but better shut-eye comes with instant gratification, too. These are 10 reasons to get enough sleep starting tonight.

1.Feel more energetic.

Being tired can make you feel, well, tired. On the other hand, when you are well-rested, you may naturally move around more during the day. You may even feel like getting in more of your planned workouts.

2. Be happier.

There are many definitions of “happiness,” but they are not likely to include overwhelming feelings of anger, sadness, or frustration. Sleep more, and you may be less likely to have depression, and more likely to regulate angry feelings appropriately. Bedtime routines, such as meditating or stretching, can also help improve mood.

3. Eat healthier.

Which would you choose if you were offered either strawberries with cottage cheese, or a bowl of ice cream? The answer might depend on how tired or rested you are. Study after study shows that people who are lacking sleep are more tempted by high-calorie, low-nutrition foods, such as pizza, burgers, and fried foods. While the cottage cheese with berries might seem like an obvious choice when you are wide awake, the less-healthy alternative might be irresistible when you are exhausted. In this example, skipping the cottage cheese and berries in favor of ice cream would lead to lower intake of protein, fiber, and vitamin C, and higher intake of sugar. Speaking of exhaustion, having healthy options at the ready can make it easier to choose them when you are too tired to prepare food.

4. Have fewer cravings.

Not only can sleep deprivation lead to “unintended” choices when faced with two options, but it can lead to actual cravings. When operating while short on sleep, you may find yourself craving sugary and starchy foods more than you otherwise might. Fat and salt cravings can also creep in. Having strong cravings, along with less energy to fight them, can encourage you to seek such foods. Chips, cookies, French fries, pizza, and bagels are all examples. These types of food are typically high in calories and low in nutrients, leading to weight gain. Together with getting more sleep, it is important to know that eating refined sugar and starches tends to increase cravings for refined sugar and starches, so limiting them in the first place can also help ward off cravings.

5. Have less anxiety.

Operating while short on sleep can increase anxiety and nervousness. Along with improving sleep, strategies for reducing anxiety include exercising regularly and practicing deep breathing exercises.

6. Drive more safely.

“Drowsy driving” is dangerous and even fatal, causing over 70,000 crashes annually and about 800 deaths. It is not only a question of falling asleep at the wheel. Being tired at the wheel is a lot like driving under the influence because it increases reaction time and impairs decision-making ability. To lower the risk of fatigue-related incidents, recognize the signs and pull over if you find yourself yawning or blinking a lot, forgetting where you are or which turn or exit to take, or straying from your lane.

7. Prevent accidents and injuries.

What do the accident at Three Mile Island, the Chernobyl disaster, the Challenger explosion, and the Exxon Valdez oil spill have in common? They are all disasters that happened when one or more people with at least partial responsibility were badly sleep deprived, such as being on duty for nearly 24 hours or catching only a few hours of sleep the night before. These disasters may not ever be totally blamed on sleep deprivation, and a small error at your own job may not lead to an infamous catastrophe, but getting a little more sleep, if you are short, cannot hurt. It may prevent, at a minimum, minor but annoying incidents, such as getting paper cuts, stepping off a curb wrong and twisting an ankle, and dropping boxes on toes.

8. Improve focus.

Sleep deprivation reduces your attention span, and that is not good when you are supposed to be absorbing the highlights of a presentation at work or figuring out your family’s busy schedule for the coming week. Getting more sleep may help prevent confusion and silly mistakes such as scheduling yourself to be in two places at once.

9. Handle things better.

Life rarely goes as planned, but it is much easier to deal with the curveballs when you are fully functioning. For example, let’s say that a restaurant is out of the salmon you had planned to order. When sleep-deprived, it may seem like a serious set-back to a healthy diet, and you might just order the next item on the menu, say, a plate of pasta. When fully rested, in contrast, you might, without missing a beat, ask for skinless chicken breast – another lean protein – instead.

10. Be less hungry.

Sleep suppresses your body’s production and release of a hunger hormone called ghrelin. Not surprisingly, lack of sleep leads to increased levels of ghrelin and, along with that, of hunger. A single night of short sleep can make you feel extra hungry the next day, which can lead to extra eating and extra weight gain. Along with sleeping enough, getting adequate fiber and protein without many sugary foods can further reduce hunger.

These reasons to get adequate sleep can inspire efforts to get better sleep, and the results can come quickly. Do you need help getting started? Along with supporting other healthy lifestyle behaviors to improve your health, Lark can help you get better sleep with sleep tracking and tips on smarter sleep habits.