30 Remarkable Health Benefits of Sleep (Backed up by Science)

Lack of sleep could be taking a serious toll on your mental and physical health.

Sleep-deprivation has been linked to everything from chronic health conditions to barely-there libido and strained relationships.

Thanks to the body’s amazing ability to bounce back, all hope isn’t lost—even for the most exhausted of you. In fact, prioritizing Z’s could make you a happier, healthier person.

Here at Pillow Picker, we’ve compiled an exhaustive list of the benefits of sufficient sleep, along with the research to back it up.

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Raising Awareness For Sleep Apnea Treatment To Reduce Seizures In Epilepsy

Because sleep habits have an affect on so many of our body’s systems, comorbidity or co-occurring disorders are common. One pair of conditions that show evidence of being related are sleep apnea and epilepsy.

What is sleep apnea?

Sleep apnea, also called sleep-disordered breathing or obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), is a condition where you have interruptions or pauses in your breathing while you sleep. Have you ever heard someone snoring and then notice it seems like they aren’t breathing? Then one loud gasp or snore (like a snorting sound) jolts them back into normal breathing again?

As you sleep, the muscles around your throat and neck area relax which reduces the size of your windpipe. This means that you may not be getting enough oxygen which is called oxygen desaturation. When the pause in breathing occurs, your body tells your brain to interrupt your sleep by activating those muscles to stiffen and open your windpipe. This is what causes the choking sound as someone returns to normal breathing.

When someone has sleep apnea, they can also have symptoms like headaches in the morning, trouble with concentration or mood, and sleepiness throughout the day. The troubles significantly worsen with increased risk for heart attack or heart failure, diabetes, stroke, high blood pressure, and obesity with those diagnosed with sleep apnea.

Unfortunately, not everyone obtains a diagnosis since we don’t all know what happens to us while we’re asleep. Paying attention to our sleep partners or family’s sleeping habits and symptoms plays such a huge role in identifying those who may be at risk.

What is epilepsy?

Epilepsy is a neurological condition that results in recurring seizures that can range in duration, type, and frequency. Doctors and scientists classify seizures into motor or non-motor types where a person either moves uncontrollably or they have absence seizures with no movement. A brain injury or genetic tendencies could cause these seizures, but typically, the source is not known.

Why are sleep apnea and epilepsy related?

A good portion of those who have epilepsy also have sleep apnea, about 40%. Of those, 16% have a moderate to severe form. The relationship exists because those who have epilepsy are at higher risk for obesity due to often having a more sedentary lifestyle. Patients are often unable to work or drive a car. There is also the side effect of weight gain from anti-seizure medications which leads to obesity. Not getting enough or not having quality sleep can lead to an increased frequency of seizures which results in negative health cycle of cause and effect that is difficult to alleviate without some kind of clinical intervention.

What does the latest research show?

Fortunately, there does seem to be hope. One researcher found in her latest study that treating sleep apnea in patients with epilepsy significantly reduced seizures. After one year of treatment, successful outcome as measured by reduced or no seizures, was recorded more often (85%) for epilepsy patients who received sleep apnea treatment than for those who did not. The researcher is Dr. Thapanee Somboon, and she is a research fellow at the Sleep Disorder Center in Cleveland, Ohio. Dr. Somboon’s findings were presented at the American Epilepsy Society’s annual conference.

The results are significant as they add to a growing body of work on the topic which could help doctors and neurologists be more aware of sleep apnea as a trigger of seizures. This can be particularly in those who haven’t responded to medications or other treatment which can be up to 30% of all patients.

Despite the relationship between seizures and sleep apnea becoming more well-known, there are still some epilepsy patients who have never been asked about their sleep habits by their doctors. A simple in-office questionnaire to identify those at risk for sleep apnea may be all that is needed to get someone on the right path for sleep apnea treatment like CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machines to reduce or even remove their seizures. Many neurologists may be surprised to find the degree to which epilepsy improvements are found with sleep therapy.

While additional studies must be performed on various populations to continue to quantify this work, results to date should encourage those who suffer from seizures. In an effort to improve quality of life and perhaps help those with epilepsy return to work, doctors and family members of those with epilepsy should consider a sleep study to identify any sleep conditions which could be contributing to negative health outcomes.

The Importance Of Sleep As A New Parent

Half-sleeping while you listen for your baby on the monitor? Praying for just one uninterrupted night of shut-eye? Going through the day feeling like a groggy Mommy-zombie? The hallmark of the hectic cycle of caring for a newborn is neither the numerous diaper changes nor the multiple feedings, but the countless sleepless nights. Especially if accompanied by colic, the two can be a trying combination for any new parent. Continue reading

8 of the Best Apps for Insomnia and Sleep

We talk an awful lot about why it’s important to get enough quality sleep each night, for reasons that range to pleasantly beneficial to physiologically necessary. And most people don’t really need to be sold on the idea; most of us know we don’t get enough sleep and wish we could get more. If only it were that easy, right? We’re fully aware that you might want to sleep more in theory, but that in practice, there are such things as crying babies, college exams, restless brains, and any number of other reasons that make getting enough sleep a real challenge. Fortunately, we are in the age of the App. Nifty little tools to help us track, monitor, manage, and modify pretty much anything, and that includes our sleep habits. Continue reading

Summer Sleep Tips

Get Better Sleep in the Heat With These Simple Tricks

There’s no escaping it: summer is here, and it is in full swing. Here in Texas, we’re hitting triple digits and we’re likely to stay there for a while. While you’re probably already keeping an eye on things like UV levels and your water consumption, you may have a little more trouble getting to sleep than you do the rest of the year, especially if all of the A/C in the world can’t keep you cool and comfy between the sheets. It’s not in your head: longer days and hotter nights can mean you spend more time tossing and turning and less time getting the sleep that you need, which is vital in the summer months when we’re asking our bodies to work harder. Continue reading

Remembering Carrie Fisher

Carrie Fisher and the Hidden Dangers of Sleep Apnea

When Carrie Fisher passed away last year, her death left a lot of people shocked and more than a little devastated; she was well loved for her role as the fierce and capable Princess Leia — and later, General Leia — in the Star Wars franchise and, as an outspoken and honest advocate for mental health and addiction recovery. Two weeks ago, her fans and family finally got some answers as to what could have claimed her life at such a young age. Among the contributing factors was sleep apnea, a term most people may never have even heard prior to the release of her autopsy report on June 16. Continue reading

Sleep quality affects you long term

These Are the Long-term Effects of Poor Quality Sleep

You probably don’t need a sleep doctor to tell you that not getting enough sleep is terrible for you. Chances are, you’ve already felt the effects of a sleepless night the next day, or noticed that a week of tossing and turning leaves you feeling foggy, achy, and just kind of awful overall. But for many of us, a night or two — or even a month or so of less than high quality sleep doesn’t feel like a huge deal. Sooner or later the stress ends, you get a good long sleep-in, and you consider the problem solved. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way all the time. The term “sleep debt” refers to the amount of sleep you’re not getting, and can refer both to straightforward sleep loss and the harder to recognize effects of poor quality sleep.

The concept of “debt” makes a pretty tidy metaphor: you’re supposed to get around 7-9 hours of sleep a night, depending on your personal needs. When you fall below your particular sleep threshold, your brain incurs the “debt” and will look to make it up later. It’s part of why you may sleep deep and hard after an unusually restless night and why most of us sleep in on a Saturday morning. That’s fine if you usually get your ideal amount of sleep and just need a few hours to recoup the loss on the odd weekend, but what happens if you’re like most Americans and regularly fall short of your threshold? It isn’t “no harm, no foul”. Years of no sleep or low-quality sleep means could find yourself paying interest on your sleep debt in some pretty alarming ways. Continue reading

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Hey CPAP Users: Meet the Pillow of Your Dreams

What’s The Ultimate Pillow? It’s a uniquely shaped pillow made of quality, ventilated memory foam that makes it a whole lot easier to sleep at night, especially if you  use a CPAP machine and face mask. If you do, we probably don’t need to tell you how annoying mask leaks are. Continue reading

Sleep and Men's Health

Men: Here’s How Sleep Deprivation Can Mess with Your Health

June is all about the guys: with Father’s Day just around the corner, and Men’s Health Week underway, this month is a great time to take a moment and reflect on the lives and health of men. Men face specific challenges when it comes to all aspects of health — they’re less likely to see a doctor when they’re sick, thanks to outdated stereotypes, and mental health concerns often take a backseat to work and family obligations. There’s a fair amount of pressure on men to tough out any health concerns they may have, which means that if they do end up on the exam table, they’re likely to play down what’s really going on.

Convincing men to take physical and mental health ‘red flags’ seriously means leaping over a few hurdles thrown up by societal gender perceptions, and that goes double for sleep. As a whole, we’re all more likely to write sleep off as something that’s nice to have, not something we need. Of course, the opposite is true. And guys? If you don’t get enough sleep often enough, it can mess with your body and head in some really serious ways. Continue reading