Sleep is an intricate bodily function. The effects that sleep have on the body impact almost every single area of our daily lives. It plays a vital part in keeping the body strong and healthy. Sleep is extremely important; while that fact may seem overtly obvious, most people don’t fully understand why sleeping is such a vital function, or what it means to experience healthy sleep.
Sleep offers the body many benefits:
- Repairs Everyday Wear and Tear: During waking hours, the body is constantly working. The muscles of the body get damaged from wear and tear, and need a chance to recuperate; sleep helps repair the damage at a cellular level. Pollutants, physical hazards, bacteria and even stress can harm the body. When sleep occurs, the body releases addition molecules of protein. The proteins help to strengthen the body’s ability to fight off infections by mending damage done to the immune system and helping to strengthen it.
- Reduces Stress: The two main causes of stress are high blood pressure, and the release of excess stress hormones like Cortisol. Stress is damaging to the body emotionally, mentally, and physically; it damages the body and causes cell degeneration, which speeds up the aging process significantly. A good night of sleep can help lower blood pressure and the levels of stress hormones being released, because sleep slows the effects of stress by encouraging relaxation.
- Heart Healthy: The heart is one of the strongest components in the body’s support system, and because is it always working, the heart is always experiencing pressure. Pressure on the heart causes inflammation. Inflammation is a serious issue and has been linked to arthritis, premature aging, diabetes, heart disease, and even stroke. People who experience insufficient sleep are known to exhibit higher levels of inflammatory proteins in their bodies than people who sleep sufficiently. Sleep reduces the amount of stress on the heart by reducing the amount of inflammatory proteins.
- May Help Prevent Cancer: Studies have shown that people who do not sleep during the night may have a higher risk of developing colon and breast cancer. There is ongoing research studying the link between sleep and cancer. Exposure to light reduces the level of melatonin in the body. Melatonin is the hormone that causes feelings of sleepiness; it also helps protect the body against cancer. Researchers believe there is a link between people who sleep when it is light outside and differing melatonin levels. Adapting a healthy pattern of sleep that takes place during the night hours may attribute to the body’s ability to fight the deadly disease.
- Helps Keep Weight Under Control: A healthy appetite, or lack there of, is controlled by the “hunger hormone”, ghrelin, which is produced in the stomach and in the brain. Sleep helps regulate the level of Ghrelin in the body. The normal balance of the hormone in the body becomes unstable when the body is suffering from sleep deprivation. Hormonal imbalance caused by sleep deprivation causes appetite to increase. The body begins to crave foods that will give it energy to energy, and unfortunately weight gain: high-calorie foods, carbohydrates, and fats. Because sleep regulates the hormone, healthy sleep patterns make losing weight easier as well.
- Helps Fight Diabetes: Cortisol, the stress hormone, has a negative impact on the way the body responds to insulin and glucose. High cortisol levels can change the body’s resistance to insulin. Glucose production is also effected by the increased hormone. Glucose is the carbohydrate that cells in the body use for fuel. People who experience a lack of sleep produce glucose more slowly, and lower levels of glucose means lower levels of fuel for cells. Resistance to insulin and poor glucose production are two serious pre-diabetic conditions; if they go untreated, the conditions can easily cause permanent diabetes to develop. Medical research supports the link between sleep deprivation and type 2 diabetes.
- Improves Memory Skills: In addition to the body, sleep helps the brain function properly. Proper sleep helps the brain process new information and experiences. It helps the brain understand information and retain it. Most people are not aware that the brain is actively processing information during sleep, but that is exactly what it’s doing. During sleep, the brain is busy organizing information and storing memories. The brain is also practicing skills that are learned during the waking hours; the process is called consolidation. If you’re trying to learn something new, reviewing the material will be easier after sleep. Whether you’re trying to master a new skill or studying for a history test, your memory capacity will be larger and stronger after consolidation.
- Become More Creative: During sleep, the brain not only organizes information and consolidate memories; the brain is constantly changing the information. The brain has an amazing ability to reorganize information and memories. By rearranging memories and emotions, the brain can restructure the information and find new possible correlations. This process is strongly believed to help spur creativity and supported by most medical professionals. Research has also showed that many people become more emotionally attached to memories during sleep. For these people, the emotional connection to the memory is heightened while they are sleeping, and these strong emotions may help creativity blossom.
- Helps Defend Against Bad Moods: Insufficient sleep can easily cause irritability and mood swings. People who do not experience enough sleep can experience all different sorts of emotional problems; some are angry and irritable, some get weepy, and other people sink into apathy. Mood swings are to be expected after a bad night’s sleep, but when limited sleep becomes a pattern it can lead to long-term mood disorders. Depression and anxiety are even linked to individuals who suffer from sleep deprivation.
- Prevent Accidents: Lack of sleep leads to an overall lack of energy and focus. Sleep deprivation has been the cause of many serious accidents all over the world. Every year, hundreds of people fall asleep at the wheel of their cars, or lose focus while operating heavy machinery. Daytime sleepiness makes it hard to concentrate on simple daily tasks. When the mind can’t focus, the easiest actions can become dangerous.
Sleep is vital to the health and physical performance of every human being. People who suffer from sleeping disorders, like sleep apnea, have to pay extra attention to their sleeping habits. Because apnea negatively affects quality of sleep to such a high degree, victims of this disease may not be receiving all the support that sleep gives to the body.