When we think about getting in shape and improving our health we often overlook one of the most important activities: Sleep.
Did you know that sleep is just as important as diet and exercise when it comes to living a healthy lifestyle?
Getting the right amount of sleep is essential for keeping your body and brain functioning and peak capacity!
1. Helps You Lose Weight
Getting the right amount of sleep is important for weight loss and maintaining a healthy weight.
Sleep deprivation causes your body to release more of the stress hormone cortisol. Among many negative impacts, high levels of cortisol tell your body’s cells to store more fat.
Additionally, a lack of sleep affects the release of the hormones which control our appetite: Ghrelin and leptin. These changes lead to us feeling more hungry more often, and less satisfied after consuming a meal.  
Being overtired also weakens your resolve to stick to a diet. When you’re exhausted you’re more likely to feel justified in “cheating” in order to improve your mood and boost your energy levels with sugary snacks.
2. Regulates Mood, Improve Social Interaction
Changes to our mood is one of the most apparent side-effects of suboptimal sleep, and many of us have first hand experience with irritability, increased frustration, and even symptoms of depression when overtired.
Sleep plays an important role in our capacity to regulate positive and negative emotions and increases impulsivity.  In fact, sleep deprivation actually lowers our responsiveness to emotional stimuli. 
Science has shown that being sleep deprived actually reduces our ability to pick up on important social cues and respond appropriately to them -- such as recognizing facial expressions. 
Together, all these impairments make it difficult to navigate our social world.
3. Enhances Memory & Performance
Sleep is absolutely essential for your brain to be able to function at an optimal level: Affecting everything from your ability to concentrate and solve problems, to your recall of important information.
Memory consolidation -- the process of moving information from our fleeting short-term memory to our long-term memory stores -- takes place while we are asleep. Different types of memories are consolidated during different stages of our sleep cycle: Non-REM sleep tackles declarative memory (what), while REM sleep is responsible for procedural (how) memories.
Even moderate sleep deprivation can reduce performance in a similar manner to alcohol intoxication, and increases the amount of errors we make. 
4. Reduces Risk Of Type II Diabetes
Chronically under-sleeping raises your risk of developing Type II diabetes by affecting how your body processes sugar. 
Research participants who were only permitted to sleep 4 hours per night for five nights experienced a 40% decrease in their levels of insulin -- the hormone which regulates your body’s use of sugar. 
Other studies have shown that sleep deprivation negatively impacts glucose metabolism, while reduces insulin sensitivity, resulting in high blood sugar. 
5. Reduces Inflammation
Not getting enough sleep increasing the amount of inflammation you experience: Raising your risk for developing heart disease and diabetes, and exacerbating symptoms of inflammatory conditions such as arthritis.
This increase in inflammation is due to a surge in your body’s production of inflammatory cytokines, alongside a reduction in inflammation-fighting proteins. 
6. Improves Athletic Performance
It turns out that the amount of sleep you get has just as much impact on sports performance as diet.
Stanford researchers examined the effect of sleep on a group of Basketball players. The study showed that receiving adequate amounts of sleep improved the players’ speed, accuracy, reaction time and general feelings of well-being. 
In addition, sleep deprivation negatively impacts our metabolism -- which will not only hinder your attempts to lose weight through exercise, but actually reduces your body’s ability to use glucose as energy to fuel your workouts.
7. Clears Waste From The Brain
While we sleep -- and only while we sleep -- our brains are literally flushed with fluid in order to remove waste products that build up throughout the day. These substances include beta-amyloid plaques which are infamously implicated in the development of neurodegenerative disorders, such as Alzheimer’s. 
This cerebrospinal fluid only performs this flushing action while the brain is asleep, with barely any entering the brain tissue while we are awake. This is why many sleep experts believe this cleaning function is the primary purpose of sleep.
8. Boosts Your Immune System
Sleep is essential for our immune system to be able to fight off infections. Even partial sleep loss can greatly reduce the functioning of your immune system: Reducing your natural immune response, and lowering blood levels of infection fighting cells. 
Compared with people who have restricted sleep, those who received a full night’s rest had higher antibody counts in response to vaccination. And the effect was not reserved for a full 8-hours of sleep: the level of antibodies increased 56% for every additional hour of sleep received.
9. Helps Maintain A Healthy Heart
Both under-sleeping and oversleeping have been shown to negatively impact heart health. Chronic short sleepers are 48% more likely to develop or die from coronary heart disease. Meanwhile, those who spend too much time sleeping have a 38% increase in this risk. 
The Harvard Nurses Health Study revealed a link between working night shifts and an increased risk for developing coronary heart disease. It’s believed that this is due to a disruption of the natural circadian rhythms causing issues with biorhythms, as well as chronic high levels of stress hormones.
10. Makes You Live longer
All of the things we’ve covered above contribute to increasing lifespan -- but even independent of these factors, getting the right amount of sleep has been shown to improve longevity.
A meta-analysis of sleep studies looked at the effect of hours of sleep on lifespan. This research revealed that sleeping less than 6 hours per night makes you 12% more likely to suffer a premature death; while sleeping more than 9 hours comes with a 30% increase in premature death. 
Lack of sleep can also impact longevity by making increasing the likelihood that you will suffer a fatal accident. Remember, sleep deprivation has a similar effect of alcohol intoxication on reaction time and concentration. 
Neglecting your sleep is not serving you, and -- as evidenced above -- may actually be holding you back from attaining your health goals.