5 reasons to prioritize better sleep in 2021

Sleep does more for your health than you might realize.

Mercey Livingston CNET Contributor
Mercey Livingston is a health and wellness writer and certified Integrative Nutrition Health Coach. She's written about fitness and wellness for Well+Good, Women's Health, Business Insider, and Prevention.com among others. When not writing, she enjoys reading and trying out workout classes all over New York City.
Mercey Livingston
3 min read

Sleep does more than help you feel rested -- it has huge benefits for your health.

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You know that you should prioritize sleep, but sometimes that's way easier said than done, especially during difficult times. With a global pandemic, the holidays and a chaotic year in general, sleep could be the last thing you're getting enough of these days. But getting better sleep deserves a high spot on your to-do list now more than ever.

Besides leaving you rested, less stressed and more energized, a good night's sleep is a real game-changer for your health. Even though the exact number of hours can vary, you need seven to nine hours of uninterrupted sleep. If you chronically get less than that, you could be suffering from some of the consequences of sleep deprivation that can wreak havoc on everything from your gut health to your sex drive. To avoid these -- and many more negative side-effects of skimping on sleep -- find more reasons to catch those z's for your health below.

Read more: The best mattress for 2021: Casper, Nectar, Purple and more

1. Improved mental health

The CDC reported that late June 2020 at least 40% of Americans said that they're struggling with mental health in the wake of COVID-19. According to the National Sleep Foundation, lack of sleep or poor sleep is connected to mental health disorders including anxiety and depression. 

"Certainly we're all familiar with not getting enough sleep and feeling irritable or even anxious or depressed. And especially now, we're really being put to the test with what's going on in the world right now," says Dr. Deirdre Conroy, a University of Michigan behavioral sleep specialist says. 

While it's not entirely understood how sleep and mental health are connected, we know they influence one another. The relationship is complicated, since mental health issues like anxiety can prevent you from getting restful sleep, and the lack of sleep certainly doesn't improve the anxiety. The bottom line is that good sleep is a step in the right direction for better mental health.

2. Stronger immune system

Almost everyone is concerned about immune health, especially as we face flu season in the midst of a global pandemic. One thing we do know about the immune system is that you need good sleep for it to function well. Lack of sleep makes it harder for your body to fight off illness, according to the National Sleep Foundation

One of the ways lack of sleep affects your immune system is by lowering the special proteins that fight off infections and inflammation. When your body's natural immune defenses are down, that means you're more likely to get sick. Lack of sleep may also affect how your body responds to vaccines, which is another reason to prioritize good rest.


Sleep is important for heart health and preventing cardiovascular disease.

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3. Lower risk of heart disease

Getting enough sleep at night can make a difference in heart disease risk factors, according to the National Sleep Foundation. Studies show that not getting enough sleep is linked to weight gain, hypertension and inflammation (among other risks). 

Sleep disorders like insomnia and sleep apnea are also associated with heart disease risk, showing a link between conditions that involve poor sleep and heart health.

4. Lower risk for diabetes and obesity

When you're well rested, you're more likely to exercise and make better choices when it comes to food. Besides this, there is also some research that shows a molecular tie between not getting enough sleep and weight gain. 

Exercise and eating well are key factors in preventing risk factors for diabetes and preventing obesity. Further, your sleep quality is linked to how your body metabolizes glucose (your blood sugar) and studies show a link between poor sleep and diabetes risk.


Sleep helps you feel more focused and productive at work.

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5. Better focus and productivity 

After a bad night's sleep, trying to focus on work or anything for that matter is tough. If you're not prioritizing good sleep, you could be paying for it with hours of lost productivity and focus. 

"Making it more of a priority for you to get enough sleep can really improve not only your mood, but perhaps interpersonally, your cognition. So how quickly you respond, your reaction when you're talking or driving, memory and concentration [are impaired by lack of sleep]," says Dr. Conroy.

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.