There’s a reason our bodies need to spend close to one third of our natural lives asleep. Sleep is an incredibly important part of life, allowing our bodies and minds to renew and recharge themselves after each day. And while most of us understand just how hard it is to function on less than the required 8 hours of sleep a night, fewer people realize just how vital sleep is our to our day to day health, productivity, and mental wellness. Here are just a few reasons why sleep should never be taken for granted.

Sleep Makes Us Live Longer

A recent study done in the UK looked at sleeping patterns in the lives of 1.3 million people. Their studies found that not only is getting the ideal 8-hour amount of sleep each night helpful for brain function and memory, it actually increases our chances of living out a longer, healthier life. Participants in the study who slept six hours a night or less had a 12 percent higher risk of premature death. Sleeping the right amount of hours per night not only helps us live longer, it increases the quality of our lives by keeping our bodies rested, strong and better prepared to battle illness and depression.

Sleep Curbs Our Appetite

Most people who work out and diet already know that a healthy body starts with exercise, a balanced diet, and a good night’s sleep. But sleep plays a bigger part in overall diet and appetite than we think. If we’re not getting the right amount of sleep at night, it could contribute to our overeating or making poor eating choices, during the day. When you’re not getting enough sleep, your body will call attention to that by sending out chemicals telling your body that it’s hungry even when it’s not. This leads to overeating, lethargy, and reaching for the less nutritious options on the snack shelf. Getting enough sleep is especially vital after a long, grueling workout. If your body doesn’t get the downtime it needs before the next gym session, the result could end up canceling out all the hard work you’ve done to get in shape.

Sleep is Great for Our Immune System

It’s no mistake that when a virus hits our system, we instantly feel the need to lay down and get into bed. This is because, when it comes to our immune system, our bodies already know what’s best for attacking disease. Rest is the most essential component of recovery from any illness. When we sleep, our bodies produce a type of compound called cytokines, which strengthen and sharpen our immune systems overnight, allowing us to be in the best possible shape to shake off an illness. When we don’t get enough sleep, our bodies are weaker as a result, and can become less effective at staving off new illnesses and getting rid of old ones.

Sleep Sharpens Cognitive Function

Whether you suffer from stress, distraction, or depression, sleep is the perfect cure for what ails you. Not only does a deeper sleep provide us with stronger brain functionality, it helps us out with mood regulation, sharpness of focus, and creativity. The longer you sleep, the more likely you are to experience the stages of deeper REM sleep that help the brain with memory processing and clarity. The long-term effects of sleep deprivation have even been found to mimic those of destructive conditions like alcoholism, with significant impact on long-term memory issues and impaired judgment.

The deleterious effects of a lack of sleep are more widespread than we can imagine. However, it’s never too late to start getting the sleep you need. If you want to be functioning at your highest possible level at work and in your home life, start making sleep a priority today.

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