Sleep provides an opportunity for your body to repair and restore. Adequate sleep is very important for a healthy lifestyle. Sleep is regulated in the same way as eating, drinking, and breathing which suggests sleep plays a critical role in our physical health and well being. You feel more energetic, more alert and better to function following a good night sleep. When you understand why you sleep, you will learn to respect sleep’s functions more and enjoy its health benefits. Along with genetics, poor nutrition, and lack of exercise, insufficient sleep has to be considered as an important risk factor.
What actually happens when you sleep? Your brain gets recharged, your cells repair themselves, and your body releases important hormones. There are a lot of health benefits when you get a good enough sleep for the day.
Better Overall Health
Getting a good night’s sleep improves your overall health. Sleep increases your immunity against common bacteria and viruses; involved in healing and repair of your body; controls your body weight; lowers the risk of diabetes, hypertension, and cardiovascular diseases; improves your memory, concentration and cognitive functions; improves balance of hormones in your body; decreases the level of inflammatory proteins; helps you live longer.
Improves Concentration and Productivity
Sleep plays a major role in a process called memory consolidation, while we sleep, our brains processes and consolidate our memories from the day. While we are awake neurons in the brain produces adenosine (an inhibitory neurotransmitter and can act as central nervous system depressant). The build-up of adenosine is thought to be one of the factors of being tired and may promote the drive to sleep. So during sleep, your body has a chance to clear the accumulated adenosine through the glymphatic system (a functional waste clearance pathway in the brain) and start fresh for the next day.
Body Weight Control
Sleep duration may be an important regulator of body weight and metabolism. People who sleep less than 7 hours a day are more likely to be overweight or obese. When you don’t get enough sleep your leptin levels drop and ghrelin levels elevate which result in a constant feeling of hunger and cravings for high-fat high-calorie foods specifically contributing to obesity. Other hormone cortisol is also elevated in sleep-deprived individuals which may result in fat storage in the body.
Sleep and mood are very closely connected. The two powerful neurotransmitters for better mood are dopamine and serotonin – Dopamine controls the reward and pleasure centers of the brain; low dopamine levels can cause mood swings, addiction behavior, lack of motivation, fatigue, and loss of memory. Serotonin helps to regulate anxiety and mood; low levels of serotonin can cause depression.
Lower Stress Levels
When you are sleep deprived your body is under a lot of stress and releases the so-called stress hormone, cortisol. Elevated cortisol levels put your body into a catabolic state which may include bone loss, muscle loss, impaired immune system, shrinkage of the brain and also interferes with the body’s circadian rhythm. The effect of stress and sleep are vice versa. To reduce stress levels, first, reduce the cortisol levels which is achieved by sleeping deeper and longer.
Sleeping less than you should on a regular basis is associated with a shorter lifespan. Sleeping for less than 6 hours makes you 15% more likely to die prematurely than others sleeping for 8 hours a night. The optimum sleep duration is 7-9 hours, which can vary from individual to individual. Besides in long-lived individuals, higher HDL-cholesterol and lower triglyceride levels are reported, which helps to protect against cardiovascular diseases and thus extends the lifespan. So sleep longer and live longer.
Stronger Immune System
Studies show that people who don’t get enough quality sleep are more likely to get sick. During sleep your body i.e, the immune system releases certain protective proteins called cytokines which help in fighting the infections and inflammation. So in sleep deprivation, these cytokines are released in very lower number and lead to a weaker immune system. Long-term lack of sleep also increases your risk of obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular diseases.
Balanced Endocrine System
A good night’s sleep has a great positive impact on your body’s endocrine system. Glucose tolerance is increased, insulin sensitivity is improved, optimum levels of HGH is produced which paces up the metabolism, decreases the cortisol levels (stress-causing hormone), increased level of leptin (decreases appetite) and decreased level of ghrelin (increases appetite) – play a role in body weight management, and finally the production testosterone increases by two folds.
Better Sex life
High quality and sufficient sleep are very important for sexual life. People with good night’s sleep are corresponded to higher levels of sexual desire and increase the likelihood of sexual activity. Sexual problems depend on other factors including mood, relationship with the partner. A study found in men who are sleep deprived for a week showed lower levels of testosterone associated with a reduced sense of well-being, decreased vigor, libido, and mood. In women, sleep promotes the production of oxytocin hormone.
Improves Athletic Performance
Sleep plays a major role in enhancing athletic performance. Sleep deprivation increases fatigue, low energy, and poor focus during game time and also slow down recovery post game. Research shows that a good night sleep improves speed, accuracy and reaction time. Athletes in training need 8-10 hours of sleep. During sleep, body repairs itself and if athletes do not sleep well they cannot perform well. Getting the amount of sleep required is a commitment just as training for athletes.