We know that we just feel better after a good night’s sleep – or at least most of us know the opposite.  The Centers for Disease Control calls sleep deprivation a public health epidemic in the US, with more than 30% of adults getting less than 6 hours of sleep every night.

Sleep is powerful.  And you may be surprised at the health benefits that come from getting enough zzz’s.

Lower Cholesterol. A recent study showed that not getting enough sleep can lower levels of HDL, often called “good” cholesterol.  Sleep deprivation actually affected the genes that regulate cholesterol, lowering circulating levels of HDL, leading to higher levels of LDL, the “bad” cholesterol that leads to blocked arteries and heart disease.

Live Longer.  Sleeping too little (less than 6 hours) or too much (more than 9 hours) can decrease life expectancy.  Sleep deprivation raises stroke risk by 4.5% – even in healthy young people.

Better Memory.  Can’t remember where you put your keys?  Without enough sleep, your brain doesn’t have time to process and store memories.  And sleeping less than 7 hours can make you more prone to Alzheimer’s disease.  The glymphatic system of the brain cleans the brain of beta amyloid, which can be a precursor to Alzheimer’s.  This system is 10 time more active when you are asleep!

Increase Libido.  Several studies show a link to lack of sleep and decreased libido in both men and women.  Chronic lack of sleep lowers testosterone level in men.  In addition to decreased libido, men with lower testosterone are at higher risk for type 2 diabetes and chronic sleep deprivation can be a cause of erectile dysfunction.  The Better Sleep Council reports that sleep deprivation is so prevalent that 79% of women would choose sleep over sex!

Decrease Pain.  Not getting enough sleep impacts our pain threshold.  Sleep loss appears to decrease the effect of painkillers.  And if your pain keeps you up at night, you’ve got a vicious cycle.

Lose Weight.  Reaching for that doughnut?  When you are sleep deprived your brain function changes, and high level functioning is reduced, making you more likely to make poor food choices.  Without enough sleep, your body increased production of ghrelin, a hormone that increases hunger, making all that sugar look even more desirable.