Well-Being Prevention & Cures

Five ways your health can improve if you get eight hours of sleep

Better mood, better heart and lower BMI are just a few ways a good night's sleep can help someone’s overall health.
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Story at a glance

  • Getting between seven and eight hours of sleep at night can lower a person’s chance of developing diabetes and cardiovascular disease, said one sleep expert at Weill Cornell Medicine.  

  • Research shows that lack of sleep can also harm a person’s immune system.  

  • Getting too little sleep has also been shown to affect people’s judgment.  

Everyone knows the restorative power of a good night’s sleep, and experts say that getting around eight hours is a good way to take care of overall health.  

But sometimes even getting a few hours of good sleep can seem impossible, especially among certain age groups. A Gallup poll published this spring found that nearly 40 percent of people between the ages of 18 and 49 said they get “fair” or “poor” sleep every night. 

But good sleep for at least seven hours a night should be a priority for everyone, and here are a few reasons why:  

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1. It lowers the chance of developing diabetes and heart disease 

There is still a lot to learn about how sleep affects human health, according to Matthew Ebben, a professor of psychology and clinical neurology who specializes in sleep medicine at New York City’s Weill Cornell Medicine.  

But what experts do know is that getting too little or too much sleep, or specifically under five or more than nine hours, can increase a person’s odds of developing some chronic conditions like cardiovascular disease, diabetes and even obesity.  

2. Helps maintain a healthier weight 

There is growing evidence that supports the idea that people who sleep less than seven or eight hours a night are more likely to put on excess weight than those who do.  

One of the potential reasons behind this is because sleep deprivation can throw off hormones in the brain used to signal hunger and fullness, leading to overeating.  

One of the largest and longest studies on the relationship between sleep and adult weight was the Nurses’ Health Study. 

Researchers followed 68,000 women older than 65 in the U.S. for 16 years and analyzed their sleep habits. The authors found that the women who slept five hours or less a night were 15 percent more likely to become obese over the years the study was conducted compared to women who slept seven hours a night.  

3. It boosts your immune system  

A lack of sleep can weaken a person’s immune system, making them more susceptible to contracting infectious diseases.  

And a good night’s rest has been shown to strengthen a type of immune cell in the body called a T-cell.  

In fact, studies show that not getting enough sleep before and after receiving a vaccination can cause a weaker immune response, potentially affecting vaccine protection, according to the National Sleep Foundation, a nonprofit organization that works to spread public awareness about sleep and sleep disorders. 

4. Improves brain performance  

Getting between six to eight hours of sleep a night will make people feel more refreshed, have better reaction times and overall better judgment, according to Ebben.  

Research shows that people who are sleep deprived indulge in riskier behavior than those who aren’t.  

One 2018 study found that high schoolers who reported sleeping less than six hours a night were twice as likely to admit to using alcohol, tobacco, marijuana and other drugs or report that they drove after drinking.

“When you look at the connections of the brain, we that people who have more variability in their sleep, people who sleep less tend to have less logical thinking,” said Ebben. “The connections with their emotional areas are stronger than connections with logical areas of the brain.”  

5. Fights depression 

Sleep and depression have a complicated and connected relationship. According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, people who suffer from insomnia are 10 times as likely to develop depression as those who don’t.  

And depression is very common among people who suffer from obstructive sleep apnea — when the muscles in the back of the throat relax so much they prevent normal breathing while sleeping, according to a study published in Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine.

Bad sleep can also impede regulation of emotions and lead to increased feelings of anxiety or depression. 

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