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When you nod off, it seems like your body powers down for the night. But as you sleep, your body actually repairs and restores itself.

“Think of sleep as the tune-up you need to run smoothly,” says David M. Rapoport, MD. Rapoport is director of the Sleep Medicine Program at NYU Langone Medical Center.

You should aim to get 7 to 8 hours of shut-eye every night. That gives your body the time it needs for sleep to do some very important things. Here are seven of them.

Sleep Takes Hundreds of Calories off Your Next Day

To protect your waistline, make bedtime a priority. A study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that people ate an average of nearly 300 fewer calories per day when they were well rested.

A solid night of sleep may provide extra willpower to resist those cookies or chips. “We’re discovering that a part of the brain that controls sleep also plays a role in appetite and metabolism,” Rapoport says.

When you skimp on your ZZZs, your body makes more ghrelin and less leptin. Ghrelin is a hunger hormone, and leptin is a hormone that tells you when you’re full.

Sleep Makes You Smarter

You absorb thousands of things every day, like new words or a new routine in your Zumba class. When you sleep, your brain sorts through all of this info.

“It decides what to store and what to toss,” Rapoport says. The important details become memories you can call upon later.

“If you’re trying to learn something, go to bed,” Rapoport says. Chances are you’ll remember that speech or perform those dance moves better in the morning.


Sleep Brightens Your Mood

When you toss and turn all night, chances are good you'll be cranky the next day. But when you’re refreshed, it’s so much easier to be pleasant.

“Sleep allows your mind and body to rest,” Rapoport says. “This can give you energy and a more positive outlook.” It can also help you manage stress.

Over the long run, these benefits may protect your mental health. Research in the journal SLEEP showed that people who snoozed 7 to 9 hours a night had fewer symptoms of depression than those who slept more or less.