4 Science-Backed Reasons to Prioritize Your Sleep


Sleep can improve mood, metabolic health, immunity, and so much more.


  • Getting good sleep is one of the most powerful things we can do for the health of our brains and bodies.
  • Better sleep may be protective against mood disorders.
  • Good sleep is linked to improved memory and better immune balance.
  • Quality sleep may positively influence our metabolic health.

When it comes to wellness, better sleep is among the most cost-effective, enjoyable, and helpful interventions for enhancing the health of our brains and bodies. Poor sleep is believed to be a risk factor for the development of dementia, mood disorders, and much more. But despite spending a third of our lives asleep, we tend to ignore the tremendous value of this activity. Here are four powerful reasons why it’s worth making sleep a health priority, starting tonight.

1. Getting the right amount of sleep is linked to better mood

One of the more impressive findings in sleep research is the connection between sleep quality and risk for mental health conditions. For example, in a 2020 meta-analysis of research on adolescents, less sleep was linked to increased risk for angerdepression, negative affect, and anxiety. In adults, a landmark study from 1989 was among the first to point out that both short and long sleepers had higher rates of psychiatric disorders, and that people with insomnia were at high risk for developing depression. Importantly, sleep and mood are thought to have bidirectional influences, which means that mood issues may also influence sleep quality.

2. Good sleep supports better memory

A number of experiments over the last decades have revealed that sleep plays a key role in creating new memories. Specifically, missing out on sleep may make it hard for us to convert new learnings into memory. Both skipping sleep before and after learning something new have each been linked to trouble turning those learnings into memory.

3. Quality sleep may promote better immune health

Across a range of experiments, researchers have shown that changes in sleep predict significant alterations in our immune cells and immune-related outcomes. For example, good sleep (versus sleep deprivation) is linked to lower risk for contracting certain infections, as well as lower risk for experiencing worse infection-related outcomes. In some studies, sleep issues are linked to higher levels of inflammation, especially in people with the sleep disorder obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). Given that unhealthy inflammation is linked to a wide variety of issues for our brains and bodies, this is important data.

4. Better sleep may mean better metabolic health

Recent scientific work indicates that the majority of us experience less than optimal metabolic health. This signal is worthy of our attention, because poor metabolic health is linked to increased risk for a variety of negative health outcomes, including heart disease, early death, and brain diseases like Alzheimer’s and dementia.

Insufficient sleep may impact metabolic health in a number of ways. For example, it could increase the chances that we eat more food and unhealthy food, potentially through effects on hormones that influence our food preferences (like ghrelin and leptin). Sleep issues may also make it harder for our bodies to clear glucose from our bloodstream.

How to help improve your sleep tonight

There are a number of reasons why modern-day people experience poor or insufficient sleep, and the best interventions for better sleep will always be specific to a person’s unique life circumstances. With this said, most people may benefit from sticking to a regular sleep/wake schedule, reducing artificial light before bed (and getting natural light first thing in the morning), reducing caffeine consumption in the afternoon, and sleeping with a cooler room temperature. For those still struggling, or those with significant sleep issues, evaluation by a qualified health practitioner is a worthwhile consideration.


Psychology Today

By: Austin Perlmutter, M.D.

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