The Magic that happens when you sleep enough

Published 31.07.2018

Guest Contribution by Amy Highland, a sleep expert at SleepHelp.org.

Amy Highland is a sleep expert at SleepHelp.org. Her preferred research topics are health and wellness, so Amy's a regular reader of Scientific American and Nature. She loves taking naps during thunderstorms and cuddling up with a blanket, book, and cats.

Sufficient sleep is supposed to be the baseline, not the superhuman level, but many people still don’t sleep for the hours they need. Here are a few reasons to motivate you to stay in bed a bit longer.

Compared to sleep-deprived people, those who sleep enough seem to have superhuman powers. A group of basketball players that slept a whopping ten hours each night improved their shooting accuracy and reaction times. Plus, they reported feeling better than they did during their previous sleep schedules. It’s one of few studies that study the positive impacts of more sleep rather the negative effects of not enough sleep.

Sufficient sleep is supposed to be the baseline, not the superhuman level, but many people still don’t sleep for the hours they need. Here are a few reasons to motivate you to stay in bed a bit longer.


Your Immune System ignites

Want to stay healthy while all your coworkers get sick? A study of sleep-deprived people found that they were nearly three times as likely to get a cold compared to those that slept a full eight hours. Even worse, those that didn’t sleep well (or “efficiently” as scientists say) were more than five times as likely to get sick as those with higher sleep efficiency. In short, sleeping in your bed a couple more hours may keep you from being stuck in a sickbed.


Your Muscles rebuild

Even though they haven’t demonstrated it yet, some scientists believe that sleep deprivation hinders muscle recovery. It’s not a crazy idea because sleeplessness increases cortisol and decreases growth factors that help build muscles. On the positive side, it seems like sleeping enough each night may help you recover from workouts faster than you would otherwise.


You can resist Pain

Extra sleep may reduce your sensitivity to pain. In a small study of eighteen healthy volunteers , those that extended their rest to ten hours each night were able to reduce their pain sensitivity. In the case of the experiment, they were able to withstand a radiant heat longer than their counterparts who slept their habitual amount. It’s not quite a superhuman power, but less sensitivity to pain is a positive side effect of more sleep.


How to sleep better

Reaping the benefits of a good night’s sleep may require some changes to your lifestyle. Believe it or not, step one is to set yourself a bedtime, like a little kid. Going to sleep and waking at the same time trains your body to get sleepy and feel alert when you want it to.

Another step you can take is to improve your sleep is to examine your bedroom. Your bed should support your preferred sleeping position and help align your spine. Compare mattresses to see which one works best for you. It may also help to minimize nighttime disturbances. Light pollution from street lamps and passing cars can be counteracted with blackout curtains. Annoying noises can be drowned out with a white noise machine. Sleeping efficiently and long enough requires the right environment.

Enough sleep might not make you superhuman, but well-rested people tend to deal with daily stresses better than sleep-deprived people. Why not spend a few more hours in bed to reap those benefits?


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