Looking for clearer skin?  How about improved memory? What about a drug-free, diet free, exercise free way to manage your weight?  What if we told you that you might be able to accomplish all this just by lying on your back.

No, we’re not talking about that. We’re talking about a good night’s sleep.

From sharper brain functioning to more balanced weight and a clear complexion, getting good sleep has a range of long-term benefits that can contribute to a healthier life overall.  Sure, it might not be as fun as some of the other things we do in bed. But it’s a lot more restful.

1. Sleep and Brain Function

“Getting enough quality sleep is critical to keeping our brains functioning well”, says Catherine Darley, ND, of the Institute of Naturopathic Sleep Medicine in Seattle.

Studies show [source] that when we’re deprived of REM sleep in particular, “it can impair a whole gamut of brain function from simple memory to more complex problem solving,” she says.

A lack of REM sleep can result in:

  • Slower cognition and social processing
  • Memory problems
  • Difficulty concentrating

Other research also suggests that sleep helps learning and memory in two different ways [source].

  • A sleep-deprived person can’t learn efficiently because they are unable to focus their attention
  • Sleep helps consolidate our memory, “registering” our thoughts in our minds, which is essential for learning new information

2. Sleep and Physical Health

A good night’s sleep is also important for helping your body function at its best. Healthy sleep can help your body better regulate blood sugar levels, keep your immune system functioning properly and even improve your heart health by decreasing stress.

Sleep also helps you function effectively throughout the day. A lack of sleep can make you less productive at work, make it take longer to complete even basic tasks and even decrease your reaction time – leading to preventable mistakes.

3. Sleep for Your Skin

“Turns out when grandma said get your beauty sleep, she may have been right,” says Cheryl Myers, RN, integrative medicine and natural beauty expert. “When you get into stage three or four of sleep your body makes human growth hormone, which is often referred to as the body’s natural anti-aging hormone,” says Myers.

“When you go to sleep, skin is repaired and replenished and made ready for another day. Every time you take an hour away from healthy sleep you are making that much less growth hormone and it’s going to show up on your face [source].

4. Sleep for Your Weight

Sleep may be a key to managing healthy weight. Several studies, including one from Stanford University [source], linked sleeping more with weighing less. The study showed that getting only five hours of sleep is associated with a higher body mass index. “There is the increasing suggestion that sleeping too few hours predisposes you to obesity and other health complications,” says Emmanuel Mignot, MD, PhD, the study’s coauthor. “Recovering healthy sleep may be a way to control body weight.”

When we’re even partially sleep deprived, our appetite hormones change, explains Darley. Levels of leptin, the satiation hormone that lets us know when we’ve eaten enough, drop. And, levels of ghrelin, the hormone that triggers appetite, increase.