12 Amazing Benefits and the Importance of Rest and Sleep | The Relationship Between Sleep and Stress

Sure. You already know sleep is critical to survival. But, are you making it a high priority in your life? You might if you really knew the benefits and importance of rest and sleep. And, there’s a strong relationship between sleep and stress.

So, if you’re not getting good quality or quantity of sleep … in other words you’re not sleeping soundly or long enough, this article could change your life. At a minimum, we hope it has you re-thinking your priorities.

When you’re sleeping well, it’s much easier to manage stress in all areas of your life. We often refer to this as resilience.

When we were kids, we were reminded time and again that sleep is important for growing children. We had our own nap time schedules, which we hated, and our parents had to lovingly force us to take a nap. Now that we are all grown up and working … and in need of longer hours of sleep … we oftentimes find it impossible to take even just a short nap.

With the hustle and bustle we have to face each day, sleep is one of the easiest things that we can compromise. However, experts don’t think it is a good idea.

According to Eric J. Olson M.D. of Mayo Clinic, for an adult to function properly, the optimal amount of sleep they need is 7 to 8 hours of good sleep each night. 

We have all heard about the negative effects of sleep deprivation. Aside from health risks, studies say that it is also one of the main causes of auto accidents.

If you think you are too busy to get enough sleep, think about your priorities and your health. You need to be in good health to function at your best. Try to schedule more hour for sleep and relaxation. The positive effects are endless.

Here are the top 12 benefits and importance of rest and sleep:


1. Sleep boosts your immune system

woman healthy

When you are young and still in the best of health, you will probably not pay a great deal of attention on whether or not you’re getting enough sleep. Usually, this is because you’re not attuned to the effects … yet.

However, several studies show that lack of sleep weakens our immune system in the long run. It also makes our bodies more susceptible to viruses that will cause several ailments.

On the other hand, if we pay attention to the importance of rest and sleep and by having a good, regular sleep pattern, it will help keep those viruses at bay.

Mayo Clinic explains further:

“During sleep, your immune system releases proteins called cytokines, some of which help promote sleep. Certain cytokines need to increase when you have an infection or inflammation, or when you’re under stress. Sleep deprivation may decrease the production of these protective cytokines. In addition, infection-fighting antibodies and cells are reduced during periods when you don’t get enough sleep.”

2. Sleep improves your memory

jigsaw puzzle memory
Sometimes, it feels like we can’t retain anything we hear, read or see – and apparently one of the causes is lack of sleep. Conversely, getting enough sleep activates something in our brains that will solidify memories. 

The National Sleep Foundation did a study to test how our brains can improve our memory. And the researchers tested this process by teaching people new skills and then scanning their brains after a period with or without sleep.

What they found out was this:

“When people have a chance to sleep, for example, after practicing a skill similar to piano scales, the centers of the brain that control speed and accuracy are more active than those regions in people who haven’t slept.”

Thus the scientists think that “while we sleep, memories and skills are shifted to more efficient and permanent brain regions, making for higher proficiency the next day.”

They also found out that sleep also helps us synthesize new ideas, not just remember the old ones.

“While you’re sleeping, pieces of knowledge can be pulled together from different experiences and parts of the brain to create novel concepts or “ah-ha” moments. That’s a big help when you’re trying to solve a problem or make an advance in your work.”


3. Sleep restores and energizes

kids fun

Lack of sleep makes us weak – as you are probably aware of from experience. We tend to get lightheaded and lose our energy when we’ve only had a few minutes of shut-eye. And then once we focus on the importance of rest and sleep and let ourselves get enough sleep, everything will get to back normal.

Why is this so?

Here’s the explanation from Mother Nature Network:

“When you sleep, your body and brain re-energize cells, clear waste and create memories. These processes are key to protecting your overall health and regulating specific functions that guide your mood, appetite, cognitive abilities, and libido.”

The article furthered that “hormones, including growth hormones, cortisol, thyroid-stimulating hormones, and insulin peak in the night hours.” These hormones “repair tissues and build muscles, and they’re also essential in functions like appetite control, mood regulation, and sex drive.”

This is why you are usually hungry when you wake up – because your body is at work while you sleep.


4. Sleep stimulates creativity

face creativity
Most often, people in the workplace struggle with creativity … and lack of sleep might be the culprit. Studies say that REM sleep, or rapid eye movement sleep, actually contributes tremendously in making people become more creative.

Here are studies to prove this: 

“At the University of California at Davis, researchers used a protocol called a Remote Associates Test (RAT) to quantify increases in creativity. They divided test subjects into three groups right before taking the test.

“One group was allowed to rest but not sleep, another was allowed to experience NREM sleep but was roused before REM, and the other was allowed to reach the REM stage. Those in the rest and NREM groups showed no increase in creativity as measured by RAT, whereas those recently woken from REM sleep showed an increase in capacity.

“UC San Diego scientists also found that participants scored 40% better on a creativity test after REM sleep. REM seems to spark solutions to new creative problems better than any other stage of sleep, suggesting that “sleep on it” may, in fact, be sound advice.”


5. Sleep helps with weight management

weight loss
Time and again, people struggle with weight issues. They claim to have tried everything – follow a restrictive diet, eat healthily, and exercise regularly.

But apparently, getting your ideal weight requires more than that. Aside from eating healthy, dieting, and exercising, the importance of rest and sleep should not be overlooked. You need it in achieving your ideal weight. 

Shape.com explains why it is very important to get enough sleep if you want to lose weight:

“Within just four days of sleep deprivation, your body’s ability to properly use insulin (the master storage hormone) becomes completely disrupted. In fact, the University of Chicago researchers found that insulin sensitivity dropped by more than 30 percent.

“Here’s why that’s bad: When your insulin is functioning well, fat cells remove fatty acids and lipids from your bloodstream and prevent storage. When you become more insulin resistant, fats (lipids) circulate in your blood and pump out more insulin”

“Eventually, this excess insulin ends up storing fat in all the wrong places, such as tissues like your liver. And this is exactly how you become fat and suffer from diseases like diabetes.”


6. Sleep helps you stay mentally and emotionally fit

happy child
Another importance of rest and sleep is that it affects your mental and emotional health. Having a healthy mental and emotional health depends largely on how well you sleep. And most people would attest to this.

In fact, when people don’t get enough sleep, they tend to get moody and entertain negativity. A sleepy baby is usually very cranky and irritable – same goes for grown-ups.

Harvard Health has a more detailed explanation of how this goes: 

“The brain basis of a mutual relationship between sleep and mental health is not yet completely understood. But neuroimaging and neurochemistry studies suggest that a good night’s sleep helps foster both mental and emotional resilience. On the other hand, chronic sleep disruptions set the stage for negative thinking and emotional vulnerability.”


7. Sleep improves concentration and productivity

focus bulb

We all want to be productive especially at work. But if we are tired and stressed, we cannot expect to hit the same productivity levels as when we are well-rested and stress-free. Lack of sleep shuts down our focus and concentration which will then have a big impact on our productivity.

Sleep.org explains this further:

“When you’re sleep-deprived, you’ll have more trouble refocusing on the task at hand after a disruption, compared with someone who is well rested. Feeling refreshed will come in especially handy if you have a “Chatty Cathy” cubicle mate or kids who have ‘urgent’ requests to turn on the Backyardigans as soon as you enter your home office.

“Getting enough rest is key for cementing what you’ve learned during the day. If you’re sleep-deprived, you have a higher chance of having a poorer working memory, compared with those who are getting an ideal amount of zzz’s.

“Even if you’re moderately sleep-deprived, you’ll have a 50 percent slower response time and a lower accuracy rate on simple tasks than someone who is under the influence of alcohol.” via How Sleep Can Help You Be More Productive at Work


8. Sleep improves your health

dancing woman
Having enough sleep generally helps improve our health … not only our mental and emotional health but our physical health as well. Although sleeping well doesn’t always give us the assurance of getting the best of health, several studies have proven that enough sleep helps us maintain our bodies’ vital functions. 

Harvard Medical further details how this works:

“One of the most important of these functions may be to provide cells and tissues with the opportunity to recover from the wear and tear of daily life. Major restorative functions in the body such as tissue repair, muscle growth, and protein synthesis occur almost exclusively during sleep.

“Many other conclusions about the role sleep plays in maintaining health have come from studying what happens when humans and other animals are deprived of the sleep they need.

“For example, scientists have discovered that insufficient sleep may cause health problems by altering levels of the hormones involved in such processes as metabolism, appetite regulation, and stress response.”

9. Sleep beautifies – it slows down the aging process

woman with rose
Perhaps one of the most interesting benefits of sleep is its ability to delay aging. We all worry about our wrinkles, creases, and lines on our skin. Of course, we all age … but a tired person usually ages before their time … as opposed to someone who is stress-free and relaxed. That person ages gracefully.

There are several factors that can help slow down the aging process – and one of them is getting a good night’s sleep regularly.

A study cited in The Huffington Post conducted on pre-menopausal women, aged 30-60, found out that sleep deprivation has adverse effects on skin aging. Here are the results:

“Researchers found that those who didn’t sleep well exhibited more signs of skin aging including fine lines, uneven pigmentation and reduced skin elasticity. The researchers also found that those who enjoyed quality sleep were more quick to recover from stressors to the skin such as sun and environmental toxins.”


10. Sleep makes you happier

laughing dog
Just like a cranky baby who is lacking sleep, a sleep-deprived person is usually a not-so-happy person. Lack of sleep can bring out a whole range of negative thoughts.

In fact, a new research can cause an anxiety disorder. That’s why you should focus on the importance of rest and sleep – getting enough sleep has a big role in our own happiness.

The Happier blog magazine explains how having enough sleep is crucial to achieving happiness:

“When people describe their own levels of happiness, being well-rested comes out on top–researchers Daniel Kahneman and Alan B. Krueger found in their research on life satisfaction a direct correlation between sleep quality and overall happiness. In fact, they found sleep quality was the single most influential factor in rating daily mood, too.

“A recent Gallup Poll got the same results: people who get adequate sleep are more likely to rate their lives as happier.”


11. Sleep can make you eat fewer calories

calories importance of rest and sleep

If you’re one of the millions of people aiming to lose weight, you would be familiar with one of the main challenges that dieters face – that is, how to stop yourself from taking in more calories.

The sad truth, though, is that the more you convince yourself to eat less, the more you will be tempted to eat! And that is so frustrating.

This is why one you should consider the importance of sleep. Studies say that when you get enough sleep, you tend to eat less calories. And vice-versa. So individuals who are sleep-deprived eat more calories.

According to the online magazine, Healthline, the reason behind this is that sleep deprivation disrupts the daily fluctuations in appetite hormones and is believed to cause poor apetite regulation.

So, you want to lose weight? Simple. Get more sleep.

12. Sleep can help you experience less pain

abdominal pain and importance of rest and sleep
Another interesting importance of rest and sleep is its ability to increase your tolerance for pain. You might be asking, “What has sleep got to do with my sensitivity to pain?”

Well, there are a number of studies supporting this claim.

The most recent one is a 2015 study performed by a fellow from the Norwegian Institute of Public Health in Bergen, which was published in official publication of the International Association for the Study of Pain.

This study, which was featured in Science Daily magazine, reports that people with insomnia and other sleep problems have increased sensitivity to pain.

While this may not directly affect people who are not experiencing pain, according to Annahad O’Connor of the New York Times, scientists believe this has implications for people with chronic pain.

“It could also have an impact on the effects of painkillers which appear to the be blunted after chronic sleep loss,” he adds.

So, there you go. If you want to be more tolerant to pain, better get enough sleep.

Importance of Rest and Sleep – Are You Making Sleep A Priority?

Sleep is an issue for many people. And, it’s a wonder that we have managed to cope with a chronic lack of sleep as well as many have.

All too often, we forget the importance of rest and sleep. We usually treat it as a commodity that we can exchange for something that will give us more value, like working more to get ahead, binge-watching your favorite show on Netflix or hanging out with friends. Sometimes we feel like 24 hours in a day is not enough for all the things we want to accomplish; therefore, we feel that we have to compromise our sleep.

But, it is taking its toll. There are long-term consequences of poor sleep or lack of sleep. And understandably, there is a strong relationship between sleep and stress. For good or bad.

In fact, it has recently been reported people have died because of overwork. Seriously … people have died! You may think, “How on earth does someone not realize their bodies aren’t machines and come to the awareness of the importance of rest and sleep to be able to function?”

That’s why as early as now, our understanding of the relationship between sleep and stress is vital … to steer our focus to what will give us more value in the long run – our health.

About the author

Dr. Gala Gorman is a licensed Acupuncturist, Naturopath, and Author who offers expert advice and programs to help people prevent disease. She uses advanced techniques that "reverse the clock" on aging. She founded the Delta Discovery Center with her partner, Charlie Frangos, to provide a place for self-discovery and healing on Hilton Head Island and beyond. Dr. Gala helps people learn to be their own health advocates.