Looking for an excuse to sleep in? March 6th through March 13th marks the National Sleep Foundation’s annual Sleep Awareness Week, a public education and awareness campaign to promote the importance of getting enough shut-eye. According to experts, a good night’s rest is key for your health, productivity, and safety. Not convinced? mental_floss spoke with Alon Avidan, head of the Sleep Disorders Center at the University of California-Los Angeles. He told us why should get more sleep—and what you should do if you’re having trouble logging the hours you need.
SLEEP BOOSTS YOUR IMMUNE SYSTEM.
Avidan says that sleep is needed for proper immune function. According to the Mayo Clinic, your body releases proteins called cytokines while you sleep, certain types of which help your body fight infections and reduce inflammation. You produce fewer of these productive proteins when you don’t rest, along with lower levels of infection-fighting antibodies and cells. This might be why you’re more likely to get sick when you’re tired—and why you’ll also stay sick longer. Meanwhile, a recent study in the journal Sleep confirmed how important sleep was for the immune system: Researchers found that people who sleep six hours a night or less are four times more likely to catch a cold than people who get seven or more hours of shut-eye.
IT’S NECESSARY FOR MEMORY FUNCTION.
Sleep is also important for your memory. “We find that during sleep, the brain is very active in sorting out memory, and clearing memories that aren’t very relevant,” Avidan says. Research also indicates that sleep helps with the retention of memory. While the underlying mechanisms are still being studied, one study recently published in the journal Science hypothesizedthat new connections, called synapses, form between nerve cells during sleep and help memories stick.