8 Surprising Sleep Health Benefits That Will Make You Want to Sleep

8 Surprising Sleep Health Benefits That Will Make You Want to Sleep

With many options for entertainment, sometimes sleeping is the last thing you want to do. Or you might have so many tasks on your to-do list that the only option is to edge further past your bedtime to check these off. Frankly, sometimes sleep is the last thing on our minds when busy.

The CDC says that over 35 percent of Americans1 sleep less than 7 hours each night. That’s less than the recommended amount needed for good health. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine also says that if you get even one hour less sleep2 on average, it raises your chance of getting long-term health problems like diabetes and heart issues.

Everyone’s sleep needs differ, but most adults generally require 7 to 9 hours per night3 for optimal health and well-being. Making sleep important and having good sleep habits can give you many unexpected health benefits. These can help your feelings, your mind, and your body.

Getting those hours of snoozing is worth it, and here’s why: there are eight surprising health benefits of consistently resting. Better yet, some of these benefits are noticeable immediately after improving sleep habits!

The Dark Side: Lack of Sleep and Mental Health

Not getting enough sleep really affects your mental health. It can make you more likely to feel anxious and very sad (depression).4 If you can’t handle stress and bad feelings when you’re tired, your brain might not be as good at dealing with worried thoughts and feelings.

Also, not sleeping enough can mess up the balance of brain chemicals like serotonin and dopamine. This can make depression start or get worse.

Plus, you might feel grumpy and have quick mood changes if you don’t get enough sleep. It’s hard to keep your emotions steady when your brain is tired and can’t handle feelings well.

Sleep hygiene refers to habits that promote sound sleep quality. 

8 Sleep Benefits for Mental and Physical Health 

1.  Improved Social and Emotional Health

Sleep restores emotional balance and resilience for better mental health. Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep is essential for dealing with feelings (emotional processing) and making sense of them (consolidation).5 Emotional processing means paying attention to and understanding our feelings. During REM sleep, our brain is busy. It goes over our emotional memories and puts them together. This helps us stay emotionally steady and respond well to stress when awake.

Appropriate sleep also enhances social interactions and emotional intelligence. Individuals who meet their sleep needs are typically better at recognizing emotions in others. They also have improved communication skills and engage in fewer interpersonal conflicts.6

2.  Appetite Regulation

Sleep can influence appetite-regulating hormones. These hormones, called leptin and ghrelin, talk to the body. They send signals about hunger and feeling full to help the body control and get food for energy. Getting enough sleep keeps these hormones balanced, which can help reduce the urge to eat a lot.7

3.  Cardiovascular Health

Getting good sleep lowers your chance of getting heart diseases, like heart attacks and strokes. Restful sleep helps keep your blood pressure healthy and lowers the stress on your heart as it moves blood and oxygen around your body.8

4.  Cognitive Function and Memory

Adequate sleep strengthens cognitive function and memory. Memory consolidation (the process in which your brain converts temporary memories into long-term memory storage) occurs during sleep. This process happens during slow-wave (deep) and REM sleep.9

During deep sleep cycles, your brain reinforces memories you acquired during waking hours by replaying them. This consolidation process strengthens newly formed memories, making them more resistant to forgetting over the longer term.

5.  Improved Learning Ability

Sleep enhances learning. When you learn new information during the day, sleep helps solidify these memories. This process makes it easier for you to remember things later. It helps you create habits and connections that allow you to do everyday tasks.10

6.  Improved Immune Function

Adequate sleep is imperative for maintaining a robust immune system. Your body produces and releases cytokines during an immune response regulation to help fight infections and inflammation. Chronic sleep deprivation can reduce cytokine production, weakening your immune system and increasing your chance of becoming ill.11

7.  Sleep Optimizes Growth and Development

Sleep promotes the release of growth hormones, such as human growth hormone (HGH). Your body primarily secrets HGH during deep sleep. HGH is necessary to stimulate growth and development in children and adolescents. In adults, it aids in tissue repair and maintaining bone density.12

8. Sleep Benefits Skin Health

Your skin is your body’s largest organ, benefiting just as much as your other organs from quality sleep. Sleeping well can help keep stress hormone levels, like cortisol, balanced and minimize acne and other skin problems.13

Sleep has an impact on skin appearance. Sufficient sleep can help reduce the appearance of dark circles and puffiness around the eyes. Blood vessels dilate after a poor night’s sleep, and dark undereye circles and skin inflammation become more apparent. On the other hand, adequate sleep can help reduce inflammation and improve these skin conditions.14 

In general, sleep benefits skin health by:

  • Reducing Fine Lines and Wrinkles:  While you sleep, your body’s energy use slows down, which is good for your skin to renew itself. During this time, your body replaces old skin cells with new ones. This is a key process for keeping your skin healthy and looking young. During deep sleep, your body releases more collagen, which helps reduce wrinkles and fine lines.
  • Promoting a Healthy and Glowing Complexion: While sleeping, your skin receives more oxygen and nutrients because blood flow increases. This increased blood flow contributes to a healthy and glowing complexion.

How to Optimize Sleep for Maximum Health Benefits 

1.  Establish a Consistent Sleep Schedule

Your body has a natural time-keeping system called the circadian rhythm. It controls when you sleep and when you’re awake. If you don’t have a regular sleep schedule or are around fake light at night, it can mess up your circadian rhythm. This can make it hard to sleep and cause other health issues.

To establish a consistent sleep schedule, follow these tips:

  • Try to wake up and go to bed at the same time every day, even on weekends
  • Limit exposure to bright screens (phones, computers, TVs) at least an hour before bedtime
  • Get exposure to natural sunlight during the day, which helps regulate the circadian rhythm

2.  Create a Relaxing Sleep Environment

Sleep can always be better, and relaxing for an hour or two before bedtime can help you fall asleep faster. 

Consider these tips for creating a sleep-conducive environment:

  • Keep your bedroom cool, quiet, and dark to promote a comfortable sleeping environment.
  • Ensure your mattress and pillows are comfortable and supportive
  • Reduce noise disturbances by using earplugs or white noise machines if needed
  • Use blackout curtains or an eye mask to block out any external light that might interfere with sleep

Nurturing Healthy Sleep Habits in Children and Adolescents

Children and adolescents require sufficient quality sleep for healthy growth and development. Teaching kids good sleep habits early on can help them sleep better their whole lives. This can lead to better health, even if kids don’t always think sleeping well is fun or interesting.

Here are some tips for encouraging healthy sleep habits:

  • Set a consistent bedtime and wake-up time
  • Create a calming bedtime routine, such as reading a book or taking a warm bath or shower
  • Limit the intake of stimulating video games or screen time at least an hour before bedtime
  • Teach teens about how sleep affects mental health

Sleep and Mental Health: Breaking the Stigma 

When working toward a health goal like achieving better sleep, it helps to have tangible reasons to pursue it. It also helps to talk about sleep concerns with others; it helps to know you’re not alone in your journey toward better sleep and better overall health.

There are many resources to guide you if you still need help navigating your sleep routines or improving your sleep. It is worth consulting with your primary care doctor to rule out medical concerns that prevent your sleep from being stellar. While you may not require medical intervention to improve your sleep, it could be beneficial to begin incorporating healthy sleep habits.


We live in a culture that struggles with sleep. Similarly, we live in a culture that deals with various health concerns. Many adults do not sleep enough for multiple reasons. However, plenty of health and wellness incentives exist to improve our routines!

You can improve your sleep by combining the factors discussed in this article—starting small with the changes you make to your sleep routine is vital. In time, you will discover that these changes, while challenging at first, will enhance your quality of life, and you’ll even look better. You will see changes in multiple areas: social and emotional health, appetite regulation, cardiovascular health, cognition and learning, immune function, growth, and healthy skin. While some of these differences are subtle and can take time, many benefits will be immediately apparent.

Rest is crucial for creating a life you can enjoy (and continue to enjoy for years!). 

We understand that sleep is a key part of having a healthy and happy life. If you keep a regular sleep schedule and rhythm, it can make a big positive change quickly.



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2.      Sleeping too little – or too much – associated with heart disease, diabetes, obesity. American Academy of Sleep Medicine – Association for Sleep Clinicians and Researchers. Published October 1, 2013. Accessed July 30, 2023. https://aasm.org/sleeping-too-little-or-too-much-associated-with-heart-disease-diabetes-obesity/

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4.      Vandekerckhove M, Wang Y. Emotion, emotion regulation and sleep: An intimate relationship. AIMS Neuroscience. 2017;5(1):1-17. doi:https://doi.org/10.3934/Neuroscience.2018.1.1

5.     Cleveland Clinic. Sleep Basics: Rem, Sleep Stages, & More | Cleveland Clinic. Cleveland Clinic. Published December 7, 2020. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/12148-sleep-basics

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7.      Prinz P. Sleep, Appetite, and Obesity—What Is the Link? PLoS Medicine. 2004;1(3):e61. doi:https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.0010061

8.      Sleep Disorders and Heart Health. www.heart.org. Accessed July 30, 2023. https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/sleep-disorders/sleep-and-heart-health#:~:text=Poor%20sleep%20can%20cause%20major

9.      National Institutes of Health. Sleep On It. NIH News in Health. Published July 13, 2017. https://newsinhealth.nih.gov/2013/04/sleep-it

10.  Cappello K. The Impact of Sleep on Learning and Memory | Chronobiology and Sleep Institute | Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. www.med.upenn.edu. Published December 21, 2020. https://www.med.upenn.edu/csi/the-impact-of-sleep-on-learning-and-memory.html

11.  Olson E. Can lack of sleep make you sick? Mayo Clinic. Published 2018. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/insomnia/expert-answers/lack-of-sleep/faq-20057757#:~:text=During%20sleep%2C%20your%20immune%20system

12.  Van Cauter E, Plat L. Physiology of growth hormone secretion during sleep. The Journal of Pediatrics. 1996;128(5):S32-S37. doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/s0022-3476(96)70008-2

13.  Wassef D. Does Sleep Affect Skin? | Benefits of a Good Night’s Rest | DCSI. MyDCSI. Published January 23, 2023. Accessed July 30, 2023. https://www.mydcsi.com/2023/01/23/benefits-of-sleep-for-skin/

14.  Samaritan Health Services. Is Getting Your “Beauty Sleep” a Fairy Tale? Samhealth.org. Published May 29, 2019. Accessed July 30, 2023. https://www.samhealth.org/about-samaritan/news-search/2019/05/29/importance-of-sleep-to-your-appearance-and-skin#:~:text=Sleep%20Protects%20Skin&text=%E2%80%9CYour%20skin%20goes%20through%20much

Written By
Rychel Johnson, M.S., LCPC
Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor

Rychel Johnson, M.S., LCPC, is a licensed clinical professional counselor in Kansas. She owns a private practice, Empower Mental Wellness, specializing in anxiety treatment and social skills development. Rychel also enjoys extensive road trips and spending time with her husband, toddler, and two cats.

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