This Is What Happens to Your Body When You Actually Get Enough Sleep
There are two facts about sleep we all know to be true: It’s great for us, and we’re obsessed with it. Whether we’re tracking it, bemoaning our lack of it or trying to optimise it, sleep is a modern-day fascination.
Not only that, but everyone knows that if you get a really good night’s sleep, your skin thanks you for it the next morning. A well-rested night shows on your face—your skin is left looking glowy, radiant, and plump.
So what actually happens to our bodies when we get a great night’s sleep?
We decided to call on James Wilson, otherwise known as The Sleep Geek, to talk us through all the amazing things that happen while we’re off in the land of Nod. Keep scrolling for the five benefits of getting a great night’s sleep.
1. Your Mood Will Improve
“A lot of my work is done within corporate environments,” Wilson tells Byrdie UK. “I know that people struggle with emotional resilience if they’ve not had enough sleep, and there are studies to back this up, so if your colleague is a bit [cranky], they probably haven’t slept well. Sleep has a huge impact on mental health. People can start out with something low level and end up with a serious mental health issue if their sleep is affected. After a good night’s sleep, something stressful can happen and you handle it how you should, but if you’re tired, it may get the better of you.”
According to a study conducted by Premier Inn, which monitored 3000 adults sleeping patterns, those who sleep on the left side wake up feeling happier and better prepared for the day. Left-side sleepers are also supposedly more capable of tackling hard workloads and the stresses of everyday life. Whereas those who sleep on the right side are more likely to be grumpier and have a negative outlook on life.
2. You Won't Be as Hungry
“Lack of sleep can affect hunger. Levels of the satiety hormone leptin decrease, while ghrelin, the hunger hormone, increase, which leads us to crave more calories and not feel full as quickly,” explains Wilson. In fact, one study likened a lack of sleep with the munchies.
“If you are awake longer, you’ll burn about 70 calories in that time, but the impact the next day will mean you’ll probably crave about 300 calories more than you would after a good night’s sleep. It’s comparable with the munchies when you smoke weed. The cannabinoid hormones increase when we don’t sleep well,” says Wilson.
Cannabinoids are influenced by cannabis (hence the name) but also a lack of sleep. They prevent insulin from being pushed into your cells, which means your body thinks it hasn’t been fed and sends a signal to your brain that you need more food (hence the munchies).
3. Your Brain Will Get a Boost
“Sleep as a discipline is quite new compared to diet and fitness, but we do know that a lack of sleep impairs cognitive function and can increase the potential to suffer from early onset Alzheimer’s or dementia if you are predisposed,” explains Wilson.
“We know that the body has a lymphatic system that gets rid of toxins, and our brain has a similar system. About four to five hours into sleep, you have a sweep of calcium that washes away neurotoxins in the brain, but if sleep is impaired, then that process doesn’t happen as well or doesn’t happen at all.”
4. Your Skin Will Be Clearer and Calmer
“During the first part of sleep, the first two to three hours is when your body will repair itself, including your skin. We all know how rough we look if we don’t get enough sleep. While some experts say you shouldn’t drink water before bed, it’s worth knowing that we need water for the production of melatonin (the sleep hormone), and it will also balance out any dehydration that occurs while you sleep. Poor sleep also increases stress hormones, and these can trigger inflammatory skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis, as well as skin breakouts, so a lack of sleep can make your complexion worse,” explains Wilson.
5. You Won't Get Sick as Often
“Sleep bolsters the immune system. When we go into corporate companies to help employees with sleep, we often see a marked drop-off on absenteeism around colds and flu, the things you tend to pick up when you are overly stressed and tired. Of course, it’s a circular relationship: A lack of immunity can lead to a lack of sleep, but a lack of sleep can lead to a lack of immunity. Stress can often be a trigger for sleep troubles, but the key is learning to accept that you won’t sleep well the night before a stressful event. Accepting that I was a bad sleeper helped me get better.
“We can force ourselves to exercise and eat healthily, but we can’t force good sleep. You need to measure sleep on how you feel, rather than obsessing over getting eight hours. Think about sleep as a foundation that you build your health on; a good night’s sleep will ensure you eat better and have the energy to exercise. Also understanding whether you’re a morning lark or night owl will help take some of the stress away.”
Have trouble sleeping? Wilson recommends bamboo bedding, which is cheaper than silk and easier to care for. Not only is it kind to skin, but it also helps to regulate body temperature, which can be a problem for women, thanks to our cycles. “Three weeks out of four, women’s bodies are the wrong temperature for sleep,” says Wilson.
Shop More of Our Favourite Sleep Beauty Buys
Elemis Peptide4 Night Recovery Cream Oil ($86)
Our circadian rhythm helps us feel awake come morning and tired at night, but if stress has pushed yours out of whack and your sleep is all over the place, use this nourishing, skin-plumping oil to help your complexion look rested even if you're not.
L'Occitane Overnight Reset Night Oil-in-Serum ($90)
Overnight this serum works to boost the circulation in the skin for a vibrant, brighter-looking complexion, whilst boosting collagen production for plumper skin and less obvious-looking lines.
This story was originally published on Byrdie UK.