3 reasons to make sleep a priority

We all know that when we sleep our body repairs itself, but very few of us know about the other amazing benefits of getting the right amount of shut-eye. 

For most healthy adults 7 to 8 hours of sleep a night is recommended, although experts acknowledge that some may needs as few as 5 hours or as many as 10 hours.  You can get a sense of what’s right for you by trying different routines.

Some of the amazing benefits of sleep worth noting include:

1. Improved learning and recall

It is widely accepted in medical science that sleep has an immediate impact on memory performance.  A 2012 study published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology [1] confirmed that memory for word pairs reliably improved after a period of sleep, whereas performance did not improve after equal intervals of wakefulness. 

Research by Karni, Avi et al. published in Science Magazine [5] demonstrated the particular importance of the sleep phase know as REM (Rapid Eye Movement) in learning and recall.  The first REM cycle usually occurs about 70 to 90 minutes after falling asleep.  Early in the night, cycles are short. As the night progresses, REM periods increase in length.

In Karni’s research [5], selective disruption of REM sleep resulted in a detrimental impact on perceptual learning performance, whilst interruption of non-REM sleep had no impact.  This suggests that the process of human memory consolidation, active during sleep, is strongly dependent on REM sleep.

2. Healthier blood pressure

A 2012 study published in the Journal of Sleep Research [2] showed that for people with hypertension, getting an extra hour each night caused significantly improved blood pressure levels.

3. Boosted immunity

There is a growing body of research [3][4] investigating how sleep impacts immunity.  The work focuses on cytokines, the chemicals our immune systems produce when fighting infection. Cytokines are also powerful sleep inducing chemicals. 

The sleep-immune connection is still under investigation, but the existing research shows a strong correlation between sleep and increased immunity.

In summary, sleep matters.  We need to start thinking of sleep like diet or exercise, as a real and important consideration in our future health.



[1] Fenn, K. M. & Hambrick, D. Z. 2012, Individual differences in working memory capacity predict sleep-dependent memory consolidation, Journal of Experimental Psychology, 141(3), 404-10, accessed: 5 February 2013, <http://psycnet.apa.org/journals/xge/141/3/404/>

[2] Haack, M. et al., 2012, Increasing sleep duration to lower beat-to-beat blood pressure: a pilot study, Journal of Sleep Research, accessed 1 February 2013, <http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/jsr.12011/abstract>

[3] National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, Brain Basics: Understanding Sleep, accessed 5 February 2013, <http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/brain_basics/understanding_sleep.htm>

[4] Zielinksi, M.R, & Krueger, J.M. 2011, Sleep and innate immunity, Frontiers in Bioscience, Scholar edn, 3, 632-42 accessed 5 February 2013, <http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21196401>

[5] Kami, Avi, et al. "Dependence on REM sleep of overnight improvement of a perceptual skill." Science 265.5172 (1994): 679-682.


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