27 Ways Sleep Affects Physical Health

December 21, 2023 · John Gallagher

How Does Sleep Affect Physical Health?

Sleep is more than just a nightly ritual; it's a fundamental pillar of health. In the recipe for physical health, many people prioritize diet and exercise without a second thought about their nightly sleep routine. While the food you eat and the lifestyle you live are important in maintaining well-being, they form an incomplete health snapshot without sleep.

Sleep supports your body’s physical health, from immunity and heart health to lung functionality, blood pressure, and digestion.

1. Cellular regeneration

Your body works hard to repair damaged cells while you sleep. One way your body accomplishes cellular regeneration during sleep is through the release of collagen. This protein strengthens skin and helps heal cells.

2. Weight management

Lack of sleep can increase hunger hormones like ghrelin, which regulates your appetite and tells your stomach when it’s time to eat. It can also decrease your body’s production of leptin, which makes you feel hungrier during the day than you need to be. Overeating, even unintentional overeating, can quickly become weight gain — making sleep vitally important for proper weight management.

3. Stress regulation

Sleep encourages the body’s production of cortisol, your main stress hormone. Without proper cortisol regulation — which sleep provides — you can develop health issues like cardiovascular disease.

4. Enhanced immunity

Sleep strengthens the immune system. It helps reduce inflammation and target infections. A lack of sleep can weaken the immune system, make it more difficult to fight off conditions that might compromise the body.

5. Heart health

Deep sleep is important for sustaining heart health. This phase of your circadian rhythm repairs damaged cardiac cells and addresses any injured blood vessels.

6. Balancing hormones

In addition to regulating hunger hormones, sleep also plays a role in balancing insulin, testosterone, and various growth hormones that control energy reserves and physical growth.

7. Physical detoxification

Your brain helps regulate your body’s lymphatic system, which removes waste products and drains fluid. This system is active during sleep, protecting your body from disease and removing blood that has leaked from blood vessels.

8. Reducing inflammation

Over time, chronic sleep deprivation can create inflammation. When regular sleep patterns aren’t restored, this inflammation can lead to conditions like diabetes and arthritis.

9. Muscle recovery

Particularly after a strenuous workout or other form of physical activity, sleep is important for recovery. Without sufficient sleep, your body might take longer to heal muscle tissues and restore energy levels.

10. Digestion

The right amount of sleep each night can help control IBS symptoms, reduce your risk for gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), and help regulate your gut’s microbiome.

11. Lung function

A lack of sleep can negatively affect your respiratory system, including lung health. Disruptions in your sleep patterns can sometimes lead to lung issues.

12. Mood stabilization

Consistent sleep can help defend against mood disorders like depression. A good night’s rest can also help you guard against the more physical health implications of mental health challenges.

13. Blood pressure

Deep sleep helps your body maintain a healthy blood pressure. By contrast, a lack of sleep can potentially elevate your blood pressure, delaying the natural drop in blood pressure you experience while resting.

14. Blood sugar

Sleep is also important in regulating your blood sugar levels. Poor sleep is linked to higher blood sugar levels, which can be particularly damaging if you also experience a form of diabetes or hypertension.

15. Chronic pain

An estimated 50 million U.S. adults experience some form of chronic pain. Without enough sleep, chronic pain can become even more frequent and uncomfortable. The same pain can also make it more difficult to sleep each night, which makes it even more important to sleep with the right pillows, blankets, and accessories.

16. Healthier skin

Sleep and skin are linked in several different ways. A healthy amount of sleep helps keep your skin moisturized while preventing dryness and irritation. Just as easily, sleep deprivation can leave skin wrinkly, baggy, and swollen.

17. Fertility benefits

A good night’s sleep can improve several aspects of your reproductive health. Full sleep patterns help create and regulate the various hormones required for fertility in both men and women.

18. Reduced cancer risk

Several studies have examined links between sleep and overall cancer risk. Some of these studies suggest that shorter, incomplete sleep durations can increase your chances for developing certain cancer types.

19. Metabolism

Sleep deprivation is also known to slow your metabolism — the collection of chemical reactions in your body that supply you with the energy you need to function. Your metabolism can decrease without enough sleep, potentially creating fatigue and irritation while making weight more difficult to manage.

20. Improved coordination

Sleep helps improve your motor skills, useful for coordinating your actions whether you’re going for a walk or flying an airplane.

21. Pediatric growth

Growth hormone is primarily released during sleep, making evening rest even more important for still-developing children.

22. Reduced risk of stroke

Sleep is one of several important processes that helps to maintain the health of your blood vessels. This assists in reducing your body’s stroke risk. Some disturbances to your normal sleep patterns can further increase your risk for stroke.

23. Lower headache frequency

Sleep disorders like insomnia and sleep apnea can increase your risk for frequent headaches. You can also develop headaches from a lack of sleep, making it even more important to achieve a full night’s rest.

24. Hearing protection

One cause of short-term hearing loss is not getting enough sleep each night. A lack of sleep can also accentuate the damage that loud noises cause, further affecting your hearing and worsening hearing loss.

25. Kidney functionality

Your kidneys are responsible for filtering various toxins out of your blood. This process takes time and energy. Your kidneys are most effective after you provide enough sleep, and enough energy, to fully function.

26. Brain health

Your brain handles a great many responsibilities in the body, helping to regulate many of the processes you rely on each day. Deep sleep gives your brain vital energy while decreasing your risk for neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s.

27. Eye health

Sleep can also give your eyes the best chance for long-term longevity. Sleep helps relieve eye strain and prevents conditions like dry eye.

Give your sleep the best chance for success.

Sleep health supports your physical health in so many ways. So how are you supporting your sleep?

The CDC reports that as many as one in three adults don’t get the sleep they need each night. In the short-term, poor-quality sleep can lead to symptoms like fatigue, drowsiness, and irritation. In the long-term, sleep can lead to more serious consequences. To give your physical health the best chance for success, it’s important that you take your sleep seriously.

We’ve got your best night’s sleep in mind at Mattress Warehouse. Our patented bedMATCH sleep diagnostic program considers 18 different measurements when helping you identify the best mattress for your body type. We’ll match you with mattress selections that suit your sleep preferences and your body dimensions. No guesswork, no pricing games — just mattress options made for you.

Take our five-minute bedMATCH quiz to discover mattress options that provide the high-quality sleep you deserve.