It’s no secret that we feel better when we get a good night’s sleep. Tossing and turning all night, or simply hitting the sack too late, can leave us feeling unenergetic and grouchy the following day. An adequate amount of restful sleep, on the other hand, makes us more alert and improves our mood.

But a good night’s sleep has a lot more benefits than that. It can improve our mental and physical health in several ways. Here are some of the reasons we should strive to get enough sleep each and every night.

* Getting enough sleep is good for your heart. Our hearts slow down when we’re sleeping, so it stands to reason that not getting the sleep we need makes our hearts work harder for longer than intended during the course of a day. Lack of sleep can also be linked to higher blood pressure and cholesterol, both of which are bad for the heart.

* Sleep helps us fight disease and infection. As we sleep, our bodies produce more of the hormones that aid the immune system, such as melatonin and cortisol. These hormones can help prevent cell damage that leads to cancer, and they help fight off germs that cause colds, the flu, and infections.

* Long-term memories are formed during sleep. So when we get a good night’s sleep, we are giving our brains time to store more information away for later reference. If you are suffering from forgetfulness, try getting a little more sleep. Chances are, it will help.

* Adequate amounts of sleep can help us maintain a healthy weight. Studies have shown that those who sleep less than 7 to 8 hours a night are more likely to be overweight. This is believed to be due in part to lower levels of leptin, a hormone that regulates appetite, and higher levels of ghrelin, a hormone that simulates hunger.

* Getting the sleep you need can help ward off depression. One of the contributing factors in depression is serotonin deficiency, which often occurs in those who do not get enough sleep.

* Sleep is the time when our bodies repair themselves. They create new cells to replace those that have been damaged during the waking hours. This is one of the keys to good health.

Getting a good night’s sleep can help us be more productive, happier and healthier. It gives our bodies a chance to produce hormones that we need and regenerate itself, and our brains a chance to file away the things we need to remember. Getting enough sleep each night is one of the most effortless, yet most important, things we can do to keep our bodies functioning as they should.