10 Benefits of Sleeping Longer

This blog is about being bold, so I'm going to step out on a limb here. Early rising isn't for me.

Given the opportunity, I will sleep until until 8:30 or 9:00. Of course that rarely happens, because I have kids and work and other life demands. But oh, when it does happen, it's a beautiful thing.

Admitting this in the blogosphere is a little unnerving. It hasn't gone unnoticed by me that one of the most popular blog topics relates to strategies for rising early. The benefits of early rising are undeniable, and I've certainly made many attempts at getting up early on mornings when I don't really have to. But when that alarm goes off, my sleepy brain screams,”Don't be an idiot! What could possibly more important than lying here in this warm, cozy bed and drifting off to sleep again?” It's hard to argue with that logic.

How about you? Do you love sleeping? Or do you bolt out of bed at 5:00 a.m. ready to meditate, run five miles, fix a healthy tofu smoothie, followed by writing 200 pages in your novel, all before 9:00 a.m.?

If so, more power to you. Yes, I am a bit envious of that, but I've come to accept the reality of my body's need for at least 8 hours of sleep. If you are like me, then you can relate to my struggle. But I've finally come to the conclusion that it's the quality of hours in the day that counts, not the quantity. So I am embracing my inner Rip Van Winkle.

The happy news for us sleepyheads is that there are real benefits to getting the right amount of sleep. And for me, those benefits far outweigh the benefits of regularly rising at dawn's crack. After experiencing the effects of chronic sleep deprivation, I choose not to alienate my family and friends or risk serving jail time just so I can be a bit more productive. When you regularly don't get enough sleep, you pay for it in daytime drowsiness, irritability, trouble concentrating, higher risk of accidents, and — ironically, lower productivity. So there you go early risers — take that and chew on it.

Most adults optimally need 7-8 hours of sleep and teenagers need 9-10 hours. The health benefits of getting the right amount of sleep are overwhelming and certainly provide plenty of valid excuses for staying in bed when that alarm goes off at 5:30. If you find yourself having that internal debate about whether or not to wake up early, here's some food for thought to make you feel better about hitting the snooze button and rolling over.

10 benefits of sleeping longer each day:

1. Sleep Helps Your Body Repair Itself

You may be sleeping, but you're not a total slug. Your body is hard at work. During sleep, your body is repairing damage caused by stress, ultraviolet rays, and other harmful exposures. Your cells produce more protein during sleep, and these protein molecules form the building block for cells, allowing them to repair damage in the body.

2.  Sleep Makes You More Alert

If you get the right amount of sleep for your own sleep needs, you are going to feel more alert and energized in the morning. I don't know about you, but when I'm perky in the morning, I can accomplish so much more than when I'm nodding off in my bowl of cereal. With more energy in the morning, you are going to be active and engaged during the day, which will help you get a good night's sleep that evening. Sleep begets energy, and energy begets more energy which tires you out and allows you to sleep well. Don't mess with that.

3. Sleep Strengthens Your Memory

A process called memory consolidation occurs during sleep. As your body is resting, your brain is busy processing your day and making connections between sensory input, events, and feelings. During dreaming and REM sleep, your brain is making links and creating memories. Quality sleep helps you remember and process things during waking hours.

4. Sleep Can Help You Lose Weight

Well, this is reason enough for me. Maybe we should stay in bed all day. Researchers have discovered that people who sleep less than 7 hours a night are more likely to be overweight or obese. It seems that lack of sleep impacts the hormones in the body that regulate appetite. Lack of sleep causes a disruption with these hormones. A good night's sleep, combined with healthy eating and exercise (yeah, you still have to do that), helps you keep your appetite hormones in balance and lose those extra pounds.

5. Sleep Helps Your Heart Stay Healthy

Heart attacks and strokes tend to occur in the early morning hours. It seems this fact has a connection with the way sleep interacts with blood vessels. A chronic lack of sleep has been associated with blood pressure and cholesterol problems, both of which are risk factors for heart disease and stroke. Getting between 7 and 9 hours of sleep a night will support proper heart function.

6. Sleep May Prevent Cancer

Researchers have found that people who work the late shift have a higher risk for breast and colon cancers. Why? Because of the differing levels of melatonin found in people who are exposed to light at night. Melatonin is a hormone that makes us sleep and is believed to protect against cancer. It appears to suppress the growth of tumors. Light exposure reduces the amount of melatonin the body produces. Make sure your bedroom is dark and windows block early morning light.

7. Sleep May Help Prevent Depression

Sleep helps in the production of a lot of chemicals in your body, including serotonin. People with a deficiency in serotonin are more likely to suffer from depression. Chronic lack of sleep causes your body to go into a state of stress, causing an increase in blood pressure and a production of stress hormones. The stress hormones make it harder to sleep, causing a vicious cycle that impacts your mood and energy.

8. Sleep Helps Your Brain

Recent studies have suggested that when the brain has some downtime during sleep, it replenishes some of the dwindling energy stores that cells need to function. The resting brain may also repair damage caused by our hard-working metabolism and even grow new nerve cells in the brain.

9. Sleep and Dozing Support Creativity

REM or dreaming sleep enhances creative problem solving for new problems that you are working out. It seems changes in neurotransmitters in the brain may help incorporate new information into associative pathways in the brain. In our dreams, we also produce unusual combinations of ideas that can result in creative solutions to problems. During any time of relaxation, especially during dozing before REM sleep or just before you fully awaken in the morning, you often get your best ideas or answers to questions or decisions.

10. Later Morning Sleep is Good for You

Sleeping in a little later for you in the morning is a good thing. As your sleep cycles through the night, the cycle begins with longer periods of deep sleep. By morning, however, the REM stage of sleep is longer. REM sleep is essential to processing and consolidating emotions, memories and stress. Your mood improves with more REM sleep. You can get more REM sleep by sleeping a late in the morning — so don't feel too guilty when you sleep through that early alarm.

If you absolutely insist on rising early, try to go to bed early enough to provide you a full 7-8  hours of sleep. If spite of its bad rap, sleeping longer can really improve your productivity — not to mention your physical, mental and emotional health. Do you think you might be sleep deprived? Here's a fun test to help you determine your reaction time related to sleep. Try this Sheep Dash test from the BBC to determine how sleep deprived you might be.

  • Manal

    Good stuff Barrie.

    I’m no 5:00 AM bolter and definitely a sleepyhead. I wake up late and sleep between 8-9 hours.
    Getting enough sleep is crucial for me, otherwise my day is shot.

    I think we all have different energy rhythms; some people enjoy waking up early and others don’t. Neither is good or bad, just is.

    Thank you for supporting the late rising movement. 🙂
    .-= Manal´s last blog ..How to Find Peace in Times of Adversity =-.

      Barrie Davenport

      You are right Manal, they are both just fine. I used to feel guilty about not waking earlier, but now I’m much more accepting of my need for sleep. I am so much better when I get the amount I need. Glad to know there are others out there!

  • Joe DeGiorgio

    Would definitely sleep in if I could. My problem is, I’m a little bit of a night owl. One habit I should cultivate is getting to bed a little earlier!!
    .-= Joe DeGiorgio´s last blog ..Never Say Die =-.

      Barrie Davenport

      Well Joe, maybe it doesn’t matter as long as you get 7-8 hours total. Although it seems I read somewhere that you get really good sleep between 9 and 11 p.m. I don’t know if that’s true, but I never get to be before 10:30 or 11:00. But I don’t wake up naturally at 6:00! 11 to 7 is the perfect schedule for me.

  • Alison Kerr

    I’m a sleepyhead too. My family don’t appreciate me when I’ve not had enough sleep either. But I’ve had to change to rising earlier because I noticed that my back gets sore if I go back to sleep, or lie and read for as long as I’d like. I’ve always thought it would be lovely to be someone who enjoys getting up early and greeting the day and I may just have to go there now. I guess there is good in all things.
    .-= Alison Kerr´s last blog ..Wild Boys =-.

      Barrie Davenport

      Hi Alison,
      I guess I’d rather be sleepy than in pain. So if sleeping Later makes your back sore, then you may be a candidate for early rising. Maybe you can go to bed earlier or, better yet, take a lovely nap during the day!

      Alison Kerr

      I love naps. When I am getting short of sleep I can easily nap at will – it astounds my kids 🙂 So, yes, naps are the answer for me if I don’t get enough night-time sleep.
      .-= Alison Kerr´s last blog ..Basic Composting for Busy People =-.

  • jodi

    As you know I am ALL about sleep so it’s awesome to have all this delicious validation!

      Barrie Davenport

      Glad to be of service Jodi! Sleep all you want.

  • Eileen O'Shea

    Hi Barrie,
    Put me down as a member of the sleepyhead group. I think the amount of sleep we need is part of our makeup. While I’ve always wished I could sleep 6-7 hours and leap out of bed ready to go at 6 AM, that’s not how I”m built. Another lesson in self acceptance, I guess…
    .-= Eileen O’Shea´s last blog ..7 Easy Ways To Be More Hopeful =-.

      Barrie Davenport

      Well now you know you are in good company Eileen. You see there are many of us who enjoy our sleep. Maybe we miss the sunrise and the quiet early morning hours, but we feel rested and energized. I’ll look at pictures of a sunrise!

  • Farnoosh

    Hi Barrie,
    Speaking about a topic that has been a personal struggle with some achievement for me in the past 2-3 years. I love getting up early when I have had enough sleep and I am fine with 6 hours. The problem is that I can either be wide awake at 4:30 or at 6am not in between. I would never sleep past 7 unless I have been out to a tango party til 2 or 3am which does happen. I am envious of you for having come to terms with your body’s need for sleep and with all these very compelling reasons. I just can’t disassociate waking up any later than 6 (which is still late because I really was doing 4:30am for a while and go back to it now and again) with laziness in my mind and only for me. Everyone is different and I would never label anyone else because they could be super productive during the day or else they just might not wish to greet the day that early but for me, it’s still a struggle to accept the need to sleep. The 6am is working out great since it’s so much later than my other crazy early rising habits. Oh thank you for the fresh perspective!!!

      Barrie Davenport

      You are welcome Farhoosh. I used to feel the same way, but my body resisted my attempts to be an early riser. It would be great to enjoy those early hours, and sometimes I do. But I don’t feel guilty anymore about sleeping until 8:00 when that happens. I get a lot of creative thinking and cogitating done during the last hour of sleep. So it’s still productive.

  • Leah McClellan

    Hi Barrie,

    My favorite time of the day is the dawn, or just before, when the sky is just starting to get light. What time I get up, though, depends on what time I went to bed and what’s going on in my life. Over the years, I’ve had jobs that required I work until midnight or later. So obviously, no early rising there, though I’ve had to sometimes and then went around seriously sleep-deprived.

    Different people have different sleep requirements, and I don’t think it’s meaningful to place a value judgment (as so many do) on someone’s sleeping habits or insist that being productive is best done if you rise early–it all depends on what time a person gets to sleep, in my opinion. Blog posts or articles that take up the flag of early rising but don’t give a nod to people who don’t work traditional jobs with traditional hours–or don’t stress that if you want to get up early then get to bed early–aren’t doing anyone any favors.

    I believe that when things are in balance the body wakes up when it’s ready. And ideally we should go with it. The body needs to heal and rejuvenate, and sleep is a part of that.

    American culture–and others–seem to equate early rising or needing little sleep with virtue. I roll my eyes lol

    I could rant on this one so I’ll shut up for now but want mention that so many people with fibromyalgia and other diseases or conditions would benefit from more and better sleep! If everyone slept more we’d have fewer auto accidents too…lots of stuff.

      Barrie Davenport

      Thank you for those comments Leah. I think the same holds true for Americans and our “work ethic.” We work longer hours than any other industrialized country. Why are we so proud of that? Life is to be lived — with balance and joy. We should not feel guilty about creating balance in any area of our lives.

  • Katie

    I do some of my best momentum gathering at dawn! I’m with Leah, up early. It’s magical, but it does mean off to bed early if I’m to remain sane. I love how you’ve explored the health benefits of sleep. I think the reason I only need 6 or 7 hours is that I fall asleep, very deeply almost right away (when I am contented). I can’t get through this great book I’m reading right now, because I fall asleep after two pages. I guess I’m contented.
    .-= Katie´s last blog ..Soul Searching- Week 6 of the 7-Week Life Cleanse =-.

  • Barrie Davenport

    That’s wonderful Katie. Yes, when you are happy and contented, sleep does come naturally. It sounds like you have a very happy body clock too. I do my best work in the morning as well — just a bit later!

  • Prerna

    I’ve always functioned best on 5-6 hours of sleep however was getting up late since I used to work late into the night. Then, I got inspired by Leo Babauta’s post on rising early and gave it a shot. Before, I knew it, I was hooked. Dawn has become my favorite part of the day. It gives me time for meditation, contemplation and writing before my daughter wakes up and husband comes up and the day gets wrapped up in busyness..
    But as everyone says, to each his own. I guess one should do what one feels most comfortable with:-)

      Barrie Davenport

      That’s wonderful Prerna! Leo’s post resonated with a lot of people, including me. Those early morning hours are wonderful, but by 11:00 am, I’m ready for a nap. I’m glad you have been able to make it work for you. We have to listen to our internal body clocks and do what works.

  • Bob Benditzky

    Hi Barrie,

    This is a great post!

    Have you ever heard of someone perplexed with the sudden change in sleep patterns?
    If not, then you have just met your first. For more than twenty years I was a 5 o’clocker. Not alarm clock, no nothin’. In bed by 9-9:30 up at 4:45 to 5:15; like clockwork.

    Within the past 3 months I gave mysteriously become a 10:00-11:00PM’er and 6:30 to 8:30AM riser.

    I don’t get it; and the jury is still out as to wether I feel a noticeable difference in my daily productivity.

    Ideas about from you and the followers would be appreciated.


      Barrie Davenport

      I think our sleep patterns change as we get older. I know that I really require 8 hours when I could get by on less in my 20’s and 30’s. I don’t know the explanation for your change in sleep pattern, unless you have found a new favorite tv show you stay up late to watch! There are some benefits to staying up a little later. Maybe because it is staying lighter outside for longer, your body doesn’t think it’s time for bed. Just a guess.

  • Nea | Self Improvement Saga

    I love love love this article. I am definitely not a morning person and I’m convinced that extra sleep is important for me, even if that’s not the case for everyone. Early rising for me spells irritation, frustration, and an inability to concentrate by mid-day.
    .-= Nea | Self Improvement Saga´s last blog ..Why People Lie So Damn Much =-.

      Barrie Davenport

      Hi Nea,
      Now isn’t it a comfort to know you are not alone! I am just the same. By the middle of a day without enough sleep, I am not a happy camper. I would rather give up the beautiful early mornings in order to have my sanity! Thanks for sharing.

  • Aileen

    I’m an early riser in general, but there is always that moment before committing to getting up that little moment where it feels like a massive wall of great difficulty. The funny thing is, when I get up that massive wall feels like a thin layer. I do on occasion talk myself into sleeping a little longer and now, with your post I can justify it 🙂
    .-= Aileen´s last blog ..Today I’m Visiting Goodlife Zen with a Basket of Friends =-.

      Barrie Davenport

      Hi Aileen,
      How do you get past that massive wall when you are cozy in bed? That ‘s the hardest part for me. I have to have a real reason for getting up early — like a tornado coming through! I’m glad I provided a good reason for the times you do sleep in.

  • Amit Sodha - The Power Of Choice

    Hey Barrie, there’s another important aspect to this which I find very relevant which many early risers miss the point on. Rising at a set time used to be important for me but now it just seems like I wanted that so I could say to people, I wake up at 5am every day!!

    What is most important to me is waking naturally. I hate being woken unnaturally to the awful buzz of an artificial sound. I would much rather wake naturally at a time when my body is ready. I also set my body’s alarm clock so that I tell myself what time I’m going to wake up and most of the time it works!
    .-= Amit Sodha – The Power Of Choice´s last blog ..7 Ways To Develop Nerves Of Steel During A Penalty Shootout… =-.

      Barrie Davenport

      That’s a great point Amit. My natural waking time is the most comfortable for me, but it isn’t the schedule of the working world or the school day. Oh well. One day I will be able to determine my own sleep schedule all the time. Thank you for commenting.

  • Billy

    I find that the most productive work I can do is done early in the moring wen I am fresh up and ready for a days work. Not to late in Bed and enjoy 8 hours of good sleep.

      Barrie Davenport

      That’s perfect Billy. 11:00 p.m. until 7 or 8 a.m. is my favorite sleep schedule. But with three teenagers, it gets messed up most of the time. They aren’t on the same schedule at all. And it’s hard to go to sleep when you are listening out for the last child to arrive home after being out.

  • Preeti @ Heart and Mind

    Hi Barrie,

    I have found your many guest posts at many wonderful blogs that I visit, last from Katie’s blog and had to come and say hello here.

    I admit, I am also night person and not so morning person. After my little ones go to sleep, I like to sit, relax and watch or read something. However, I still have to wake up early as kids are early riser 🙂 and I am working on smiling as I wake up groggy from lack of sleep but now I am used to with lesser sleep (or I think).

    I am glad to read unique and bold perspective. I like that.
    .-= Preeti @ Heart and Mind´s last blog ..Why learning from history is cool – Part 1 =-.

      Barrie Davenport

      Hi Preeti,
      I am so glad you that you have come here to visit! I hope you will visit often. Small children make it hard to be a late sleeper. You are forced into their sleep patterns. It is hard to wake up smiling when you want to go back to sleep so badly. But good for you that you are trying to accept your forced status as an early riser with a happy demeanor!

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  • Joanne Wright

    Hi Barrie – first time on your site having found you via Zen Habits post! Will be subscribing. I’m not an early riser about 8am is perfect for me although I have to get up at 6.30am as my two young children do! I actually feel inadequate at my inability to get up as though it is some infliction I am cursed with haha! This is further emphasised by much of the writing on productivity and simplicity suggesting we must rise at 5am! Such a relief to hear others are not morning people!

      Barrie Davenport

      It is a relief, isn’t it?! My heart wants to be an early riser, but my body just doesn’t cooperate. With young children, you have good reason to need sleep. So please give yourself a break. I am so glad you are a subscriber. Thank you so much!

  • Hendrik

    I am an early riser and I also love to sleep! I try to get about 7-8 hours of sleep per night and still rise at about 6 a.m. To make that happen I have to go to bed at 10 or 11 in the evening but that’s ok for me, as I’ve had a wonderful day by then 🙂

    If you are an early day person (and not all people are!) than I think you can get a lot out of the day if you make a habit of rising early. However, if you like to work in the evening and wake up late, then it’s of no use to try to work against your body and rise early by force. (See http://www.brainrules.net/sleep :))
    .-= Hendrik´s last blog ..Weniger Dinge auf dem Desktop =-.

      Barrie Davenport

      That’s great advice Hendrik. And thank you for the link. I think it’s one of those things that we all have to figure out for ourselves. There is no “right” way to go. Only the right way for ourselves. Thank you for commenting.

  • Louis Dizon

    Sleep is definitely an important thing for each and every one of us. Sleep gives inner peace and calm. I love sleep especially when it’s cold outside topped with drops of rain.
    .-= Louis Dizon´s last blog ..The Change Blog Excerpt =-.

  • Marsha Stopa

    Thanks for this post, Barrie.

    Depending on the demands of my life, I can retrain myself to rise early. I’ve also gone for long stretches where my body clock was self regulating and I woke at the same time, early every day without an alarm, But lately, I’m in the late-rising club. And thank you for explaining that the quality of later morning sleep is better! I have definitely felt it was, but didn’t know there was a physiological explanation. You have just helped me justify my later sleepiness. 🙂
    .-= Marsha Stopa´s last blog ..Desperately seeking summer =-.

  • Amy

    Barrie! Just discovering your blog so first, congratulations! You sound as if you have truly found an inspired calling. I know, because I am feeling it too! Woo-hoo!!!

    Now, celebrations aside, I have to say I think this is a very interesting post because there’s a lot of information — but it’s information provided in defense of something that I don’t think needs defending.

    I have a friend who always used to kind of boast about how early she got up, and, at the same time criticize others who would sleep in with sarcastic taunts like ‘wow, must be nice.’ Or, ‘how can so and so sleep so late, he misses half the day. ‘

    Try this on for size: When someone judges you, it simply means you have met their fear.

    For example, there was nothing more fearful to my friend than being labeled as lazy. Of course, when judging the late sleepers, she never bothered to mention that she was in bed each night by 8 or 9, while they were up or out or possibly even working! What makes the morning hours that she was awake more important than the evening hours?

    You may have simply needed a subject for this blog, and I’m sure it will resonate with many readers but, when it comes to judging yourself, I’m guessing you accomplish more in most days than others do if they’re up around the clock!

    Sleep in and enjoy!

    .-= Amy´s last blog ..What I Learned About My Husband From My Computer =-.

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  • Lynne Alana Delaney

    Finally…validation! I have been teased by family members for years for what they call ” sleeping in ” until 8 or 9 when I can. I notice the difference when I don’t get a full 8 hours in my mood and threaten them with the ‘wrath of Kahn’ if they don’t heed my wishes. Love to hear there is a fellow sleepy-head or two out there!

      Barrie Davenport

      Hi Lynne,
      I can so relate. I feel so much better when I can sleep until I wake up naturally. Follow what your body tells you, and forget the naysayers!

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