Is sleep really good for you? Here’s what sleep experts say

Sleep has several health benefits, but according to sleep experts, it has some surprising downsides. (Photo: Getty Images)

For children, sleep is usually seen as something to be avoided at all costs. As adults, making time for sleep can seem like a dream. Still, many adults take naps: A third of adults nap on a typical day, according to the Pew Research Center.

But while most people take naps at some point, you may be confused about all the facts and benefits of sleep. Also, keep this in mind: According to sleep experts, sleep isn’t right for everyone.

So what to do with sleep and when to catch it? Here are five facts you should know.

A horse. 1: For most people, sleep has great benefits.

At a basic level, sleep helps fuel the rest of your day. “Sleep provides a little break in the middle of the day, which is beneficial for physical and cognitive refreshment,” says Dr. Kelly Waters, a sleep medicine specialist and neurologist at Spectrum Health, tells Yahoo Life.

But many of the benefits of naps overlap with the benefits of regular sleep, says sleep expert Dr. V. Christopher Winter, Author The Sleep Solution: Why Your Sleep Is Ruined and How to Fix It, Yahoo Life says. “It’s great if you can get seven to eight hours of sleep a night. But if you can’t, sleep is a good way to fill those gaps,” he says.

So if you do it right, naps can help you feel less sleepy, improve your ability to study later, remember things better, and control your emotions, Winter says.

A horse. 2: Sleep helps support the healing process.

Falling asleep when you’re sick is a sign that your immune system is doing its job, says Waters. “When you’re sick, your immune cells release chemical messengers to guide the body’s response and healing,” he explains. – These reporters also make you sleepy.

Sleep allows your body’s immune system to do the things it needs to do to help you feel better. “Because sleep’s normal function is restorative and rejuvenating, sleeping when you’re sick can aid in recovery and healing,” says Waters. Sleeping (or napping) when you’re sick is “especially helpful if your pain is preventing you from sleeping at night,” says Winter.

A horse. 3: There are some health risks associated with sleeping.

But not all sleep is beneficial. Sleep deprivation has been linked to several health problems in adults, including high blood pressure and stroke. A recent study was published in the journal involving 358,451 people Hypertension They found that participants who usually slept during the day were 12% more likely to have high blood pressure and 24% more likely to have a stroke than those who did not. And if a person was under 60, sleeping most days increased the risk of developing high blood pressure by 20% compared to those who never slept.

Long sleep, such as an hour or more, has also been linked to an increased risk of diabetes, heart disease and depression.

But Winter says it’s hard to say whether that’s because of sleep itself, or whether it’s an indication that someone has an underlying health problem. “Studies have difficulty controlling for these variables,” he says.

Still, Winter says, there’s what he calls the “sweet spot” of sleep. “There’s a difference between being a parent of a toddler who sleeps because they’re only getting four hours of sleep, and getting three hours of sleep after eight hours the night before,” she says. “Studies show that when people don’t get enough sleep, it leads to illness, but it can also happen if you sleep more than you need.”

A horse. 4: Some people need to avoid sleep.

Experts say that while naps can be beneficial for many people, not everyone should try to have fun in the middle of the day. “Sleep may not be beneficial if you are not refreshed [when you wake up]it’s hard to sleep at night or you can’t sleep for shorter periods of time,” Waters said.

If you have insomnia, it’s best to stay up if you can, she says. “The brain determines its daily sleep quota and sleeps within that quota,” he says. “There are factors that trigger sleepiness during waking hours. Sleeping reduces these, and the sleepy message isn’t as strong, so there’s not a big push to fall asleep and stay asleep.”

Winter admits that sleep can be “very nice” if you’re struggling with insomnia. But, he adds, “you should be careful not to go to bed after a rough night, as this may perpetuate the problem.”

A horse. 5: There is such a thing as sleeping too long.

Just like when you sleep at night, your body can go through different stages of sleep while you sleep. If you nap for 30 minutes or more, your body may enter slow-wave sleep and then feel drowsy, Winter says. This is called “sleep inertia.”

“If you lie down and take a two-hour nap, you might feel worse than before,” Winter explains. “You start going into a sleep cycle where it’s hard to wake up.”

That’s why the ideal nap time is 15 to 30 minutes, says Waters. “You want your sleep to help you sleep,” says Winter.

Are you ready for bed? Winter suggests finding a quiet spot, kicking off your shoes, and getting comfortable. “If the sleep happens, great,” he says. “If not, at least you had a good time to relax.”

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