Why is sleep so important? Because without sleep, you can’t survive – literally! Sleep not only keeps your body healthy and energized, but it also helps with memory, concentration, and overall mental health.
If you’re interested in learning more about the importance of sleep and what you can do to improve your own sleeping habits, continue reading!
Top 10 Reasons Why Sleep is So Important
1. Sleep improves memory
When you’re asleep, your brain processes the information you’ve taken in throughout your day. This helps it build new neural pathways so that you can recall important memories more quickly and easily when needed. A good night’s sleep might be just what you need to remember names or places at an upcoming event.
According to research from Harvard Medical School, people who get enough sleep are better able to recognize faces and voices than those who don’t get enough rest. Researchers believe that getting enough shut-eye increases blood flow to your hippocampus—the part of your brain responsible for consolidating short-term memories into long-term ones—which could help improve memory retention.
Besides consolidating your memory, researchers found that getting enough sleep helps integrate new information into existing memory and makes the information more accessible, helping you maintain a sharp memory.
Additionally, a sleep-deprived individual cannot fully concentrate or effectively pay attention which is needed to grasp new information.
2. Sleep strengthens your immune system
Researchers have demonstrated that a good night’s rest can increase the body’s ability to fight infections and help promote health and wellbeing.
According to research, quality sleep improves immune response by boosting the effectiveness of the immune cells, called the T cells, which help fight off infections.
When sleeping, the body releases cytokines, proteins that fight inflammation, and other disease-causing pathogens. Lack of sleep decreases the production of these cytokines, which reduces your immune function, leaving you susceptible to infections.
3. May reduce the risk of depression
Individuals that don’t get enough sleep have a tenfold higher risk for depression compared to those that get adequate sleep.
This is because a lack of sleep affects the production and function of serotonin, a neurotransmitter needed for the production of melatonin in the brain. Melatonin is a sleep hormone produced by the brain in response to darkness to help regulate your sleep cycle. Read More.
4. Sleep may boost productivity
Another thing that the brain does while you sleep is that it performance enhancer. It largely influences your cognitive function, performance, concentration, and productivity.
Adequate sleep can increase your ability to solve problems and enhance brain function and memory. On the other hand, lack of sleep can contribute to a decrease in physical and mental awareness, leading to reduced productivity. Read More.
5. Sleep sharpens your attention
Research equates sleep deprivation to alcohol intoxication. It can impair performance and cognitive functions. It can affect speed performance and accuracies such as the one needed for safety on the road and other critical settings.
Generally, it’s difficult to pay attention, stay alert, and concentrate when you are sleep-deprived.
6. Reduces stress levels
Sleep is a great tool against stress. It regulates mood, reduces irritability and anxiety, and lowers the risk of depression.
Sleep maintains healthy cortisol levels. Cortisol is a hormone produced when one is stressed. Chronic elevation of cortisol may cause inflammation, increased blood pressure, increased appetite for high-calorie foods, cause weight gain, and increase the risk of osteoporosis.
When you don’t get enough sleep, cortisol levels increase, which causes you to feel stressed.
You’re also likely to feel more alert and mentally refreshed after a good night’s sleep. This will help keep you emotionally balanced, allowing you to be more rational when dealing with issues preventing anxiety and depression. Read More.
7. It helps your body heal itself
It’s during sleep that the body releases hormones that trigger growth and tissue repair.
It’s also during sleep when the body produces more white blood cells, which help boost the immune system by fighting off infections. That’s why the immune system cannot fully protect you against infections if you don’t sleep enough.
Sleep also gives your body a break and allows for the rejuvenation of cells. The body is also able to produce hormones that slow your breathing and relax other body muscles.
8. May promote weight loss
According to research, short sleep duration is associated with increased body mass index due to the disruption of ghrelin and leptin functions.
Leptin is a hormone that regulates energy balance and prevents hunger. Normally leptin levels are elevated during sleep. This helps send a signal to the brain that the energy stores are sufficient for different body processes.
But when you don’t get enough sleep, ghrelin (a hormone that increases hunger and appetite) levels increase, causing you to want to eat more which translates to more calories being stored as fat, causing weight gain.
In one review, lack of inadequate sleep increases the risk of developing obesity by 89 percent and 55 percent in children and adults, respectively.
9. Sleep improves glucose metabolism
Lack of sleep reduces insulin sensitivity and blood glucose regulation.
When we’re sleep-deprived, our bodies release more of a hormone called ghrelin and less of another hormone called leptin.
Ghrelin makes us hungry, and leptin helps control that hunger, so we don’t overeat. This means when we don’t get enough sleep, we tend to eat too much—and those extra calories can really add up fast. Studies also show that getting adequate sleep helps maintain healthy insulin levels and keeps stress hormones in check.
According to research, sleeping for 6 hours a day has been associated with an increased risk for type 2 diabetes, while having 4 hours of sleep every day has shown symptoms of prediabetes.
10. Improves heart health
Sleep decreases the demand for the heart to keep working. This allows it to pump less, leading to reduced heart rate and a drop in blood pressure. Lack of adequate sleep keeps your heart rate elevated and increases your risk for cardiovascular diseases.
In one review, sleeping 7-8 hours resulted in decreased risk of developing heart failure. Read More.
Dangers of Sleep Deprivation
If someone asked you why is sleep so important, you’re more likely to state its benefits, but more than that, sleep deprivation can put your health at risk of various health issues.
Unfortunately, many people think sleep deprivation isn’t all that harmful. But it actually is! Not getting enough sleep can have serious negative consequences on your physical and mental health, including
- Memory loss
- Inability to concentrate
- Increased risk of obesity
- Increased risk of type 2 diabetes
- Poor digestive health
- High blood pressure
- Increased risk of heart disease
- Poor self-control
Tips to Sleep Beter at Night
More than having adequate sleep, the quality of sleep goes a long way. Here are tips to help you sleep better.
1. Avoid screens before bed
Exposure to bright light in our eyes at night inhibits melatonin (a hormone that controls sleep and sleep-wake cycle) production and makes it harder to fall asleep. This is because melatonin is produced from serotonin, which is signaled by darkness. That’s why it’s important to avoid screens before bed. It may be counterintuitive, but when you’re struggling to fall asleep, turning off your computer or TV and picking up a book are two easy ways to help relieve stress, relax, and fall asleep faster.
2. Take A Hot Bath Before Bed
A good soak before bed can relax your muscles and soothe tension. If you’re having trouble falling asleep, taking a hot bath about an hour before bedtime can easily help your body unwind and fall asleep. In addition, you’ll wake up feeling refreshed in the morning.
3. Set a regular bedtime
Waking up at different times each day can throw off your internal clock. Set a regular bedtime that allows you to get up and go to bed at more or less the same time every day. Regular sleep patterns can make it easier to fall asleep, stay asleep, and feel refreshed when you wake up in the morning. Having a sleep routine also helps your body prepare for restful slumber and makes waking up less difficult.
4. Don’t take late afternoon naps
If you’re tired, it’s tempting to take a short nap before dinner. But late naps can interfere with your nighttime sleep. If you’re having trouble sleeping at night, avoid napping during the day. Instead, go for a short walk or a light stretch during your lunch break and then return to work refreshed.
5. Avoid eating late in the evening
When you eat a meal, your body releases insulin, which signals cells to store energy. When you eat right before bedtime, however, your cells aren’t able to utilize that energy because they’re getting ready for sleep.
This may cause indigestion, making it difficult to fall asleep. You may also end up feeling tired in the morning. If you want a good night’s rest, aim to avoid eating 2-3 hours before bedtime.
6. Exercise in the morning
Getting your heart rate up first thing in the morning has been proven to help you get a better night’s sleep. In one study, a 6 AM cardio session was found to result in a 50% boost in melatonin levels six hours later, compared with people who hit their gym after work.
7. Avoid caffeine, especially around bedtime
The sleep-wake cycle is governed by your body’s internal clock, a.k.a. circadian rhythm. As a stimulant, caffeine can throw off this rhythm by delaying your circadian timing—and it’s thought to disrupt sleep quality. So make sure you stop drinking coffee at least six hours before bedtime; it takes that long for caffeine levels in your blood to drop back down again.
8. Rule out a sleep disorder
There are a few different reasons why you might not be sleeping well—everything from an unhealthy diet, anxiety, stress, and medical conditions can lead to sleepless nights. If you’re still experiencing sleep difficulty even after using some of the tips discussed above, it’s time to see a doctor or sleep specialist.
9. Improve your bedroom
One of the most important things you can do for your sleep quality is to improve your sleeping environment. This means more than simply picking out a comfortable mattress; it also includes eliminating distractions such as TV, smartphones, and other electronic devices that might disturb your sleep or at least turn them off (or put them on airplane mode).
10. Increase bright light exposure during the day
It’s called light therapy, and it’s an easy way to help regulate your internal clock. Any disruption in your circadian rhythm can lead to poor sleep.
If you find yourself struggling with insomnia, try and maximize natural light exposure during daytime hours. In a study involving patients with depression, researchers found that those who were exposed to bright-light therapy for 45 minutes in the morning experienced an improvement in their sleep patterns, even if they didn’t exercise.
Research also shows that exposure to bright, natural light during your waking hours, even when you don’t see any sun—can help reset and improve your sleep schedule. Just as important: getting plenty of darkness each night so that your body can rest during sleep hours.
The importance of sleep can’t be stressed enough. When you don’t get enough of it, it negatively impacts just about every aspect of your life, from your job performance to your relationship with friends and family members to how you feel about yourself every day.
Sleep is just as essential for your health as exercise and good nutrition. A lack of adequate sleep may lead to chronic conditions, including diabetes, heart disease, and depression. In contrast, good quality sleep may improve your immune system, increase productivity, reduce stress levels, and help your body heal and rejuvenate.
But it’s not any form of sleep that can be effective: ensure you are getting a night of good quality sleep by incorporating the tips listed above, such as exercising daily, avoiding electronics before bed, and avoiding caffeinated drinks in the evening.
And if your lack of sleep is chronic, check with your doctor to rule out any medical conditions, then continue with the tips above to ensure a good night’s sleep that improves health and wellbeing.
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