The role of sleep can never be overestimated. Sleep is like the hidden ‘medicine’ that our body needs in sufficient daily doses to get on well.
The health of the mind and body is influenced to a large extent by sleep. Good sleep contributes immensely to good health. Lack of sleep on the other hand contributes immensely to bad health.
Knowing the benefits of sleep helps you understand why failure to sleep well will cause your body problems. Learn more about the benefits of sleep here.
Why Do We Sleep?
Sleep is regulated by the body, the same way other functions or processes such as breathing and eating are regulated. The fact that sleep is regulated means that it serves a critical role, just like breathing or eating serves critical functions. While it is still difficult to provide a precise answer to the question of why we sleep, scientists and researchers have come up with a number of theories that combined might serve to explain why we actually sleep. Here is a look at the main theories;
This theory is derived from the belief that sleep performs the function of restoring the body, i.e. filling up the body with what it loses during the hours you are awake. Indeed some studies have shown that if any animal were to be completely deprived of sleep, it will not only lose all its immune function but will also die in under a month. Further studies have shown that critical functions happen mostly and sometimes only during sleep. Examples of such functions include the release of growth hormones, protein synthesis, and tissue repairs.
Another aspect of sleep that is closely linked to this theory is related to a by-product of cell activities. When awake, the brain’s neurons produce a by-product known as adenosine. Now, adenosine is thought to be responsible for ‘informing’ the body that we are tired. Scientists have observed that as adenosine accumulates, the push to sleep intensifies until the body cannot bear it anymore and goes to sleep. During sleep, the body gets the opportunity to clear away adenosine from its system, allowing us to feel alert, light, and fresh. And so we wake up. When you take coffee during those ‘sleepy’ moments, the caffeine essentially blocks adenosine and keeps the body alert.
Energy conservation theory
The energy conservation theory observes that the purpose of sleep is to reduce the body’s energy expenditure. This might not make obvious sense until you try to imagine how you will go about your daily routine in the absence of sufficient food. Remember that competition for energy is central in natural selection. This theory suggests that in ancient times, organisms tended to use rest to conserve their energy, and this evolved to sleep. This can be supported by research that has shown that the levels of energy metabolisms reduce significantly during sleep.
This theory postulates that sleep is the result of inactivity at night which started as an adaptation that organisms used for purposes of survival, helping them to stay out of danger. Animals that remained inactive at night or during dark periods, for example, did not get harmed by predators, and neither did they get involved in accidents. This survival strategy developed over time to become what we know today as sleep.
Brain elasticity theory
This is a recent theory, which observes that sleep is used by the body to achieve organizational and structural changes in the brain. That is why for example, babies sleep for over 13 hours. They spend almost half of this time in REM sleep, the sleep stage where most dreams take place.
A link between sleep and brain plasticity is becoming clear in adults as well. This is seen in the effect that sleep and sleep deprivation have on people’s ability to learn and perform a variety of tasks. This theory links sleep heavily to memory and learning.
What Are the Benefits of Sleep?
Here are 15 top reasons why good sleep is so important that you should always strive to ensure you are getting enough sleep throughout your life;
1. Sleep is good for heart health
During the time of sleep, the body releases important hormones that play the role of maintaining the blood and heart vessels in a healthy state. In fact, poor sleeping habits have been linked to medical conditions such as high blood pressure which can be detrimental. You don’t want to develop a threatening heart condition only to discover that it was caused by poor sleep.
A good nightly rest on regular basis costs nothing, but lack of it can become so costly.
2. Good sleep can contribute to healthy blood sugar levels
Sufficient sleep duration creates a good balance in your body’s glucose levels, thus helping to maintain optimal metabolisms.
Experts have found out that good sleep can prevent or help to relieve common medical conditions such as diabetes. As you can see, lack of sleep will therefore not only interfere with your sugar levels but also lead to or worsen pre-existing conditions.
3. Enough sleep improves social interactions
Social interactions are affected to a very large extent by sleep. If you are keen, you will notice that your social interactions might tend to be awkward whenever you lack good sleep.
A number of studies based on facial recognition experiments have discovered that people who lack sleep had challenges associated with deteriorating ability to take note of expressions such as happiness and anger. These are social cues that we need to actively recognize when interacting with other people. You can imagine not being able to notice that the person you are interacting with is angry and needs to be left alone, for instance.
Scientists in the field of sleep have asserted that poor sleep impairs your ability to process emotional social cues that have a huge impact on our daily interactions.
4. Sleep reduces stress
When you sleep enough, your mind relaxes so well that it recovers from any ‘weight’ it might have suffered in the course of the day. A body that is deprived of sleep releases hormones that cause stress which in itself is a major cause of many undesirable conditions including medical issues.
A body that sleeps well relaxes well and releases the right hormones which then sets the stage for a stress-free experience as you go through the routine activities of the day. Even when you are not able to get enough time to sleep well consistently especially due to work or school commitments, always try to compensate when you can. For example, if your weekdays are packed with work or school such that you can’t really manage enough sleep on weekdays, create time and sleep on weekends.
5. Enough sleep can check weight gain
A minimum of 7-8 hours per night of comfortable sleep per night can give you a huge boost towards efforts to guard against weight gain. Adequate sleep reduces the amount of ghrelin, a hormone that is known to lead to an increase in human appetite. Lack of sleep on the other hand pumps up this hormone.
Another hormone that good sleep checks is known as leptin, a hormone that plays the important role of telling you when full. Lack of sleep decreases leptin, meaning you will continue feeding even when you are already full. Long hours of sleep will increase leptin, hence your body will tell you when full and stop feeding. Remember as well that sleep deficient habits create the perfect environment to accumulate stress, your energy levels go down and your body is not able to kick out cravings for junk food.
6. Sleep powers good moods
Ever realized that your moods rise to the highest levels on the days you get good sleep? Well, some people believe in the myth that good moods are attained by waking up on the right side of the bed. On the contrary, it matters not the side of the bed you wake up from. All that matters is comfortable sleep.
A good night of recovery sleep rests all parts of your body including the brain which plays a big role in moods through serotonin, the hormone that triggers good feelings. One of the most important functions of sleep is to regulate the brain’s sensory input which leads to improved mood.
7. Improved memory
Sleeping well helps the mind to go through all the critical sleep stages and consolidate the memories of the day. It, therefore, follows that poor sleep can easily confuse the mind and the memory systems will not function properly. This is how you end up losing memory or ending up with false memories.
You might have noticed that on the periods when your sleep is not that good, you might tend to have memory challenges. The solution to these challenges lies in sleep, so make a point of getting good sleep on a daily basis.
8. Sleep strengthens immunity
Your immune cells are always working hard to protect your body from diseases. When you sleep, these cells also get some sort of rest which energizes the immune function to better perform their roles. If you are observant, you must have noticed that you tend to attract common illnesses such as flu and colds during the times you don’t get to sleep well. It is also true that such illnesses tend to stay away in times of good sleep.
According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, comfortable sleep helps the body to accommodate vaccines with high levels of effectiveness.
9. Increased productivity
Most persons, especially in workplaces or while schooling, tend to sacrifice sleep in order to meet deadlines or finish up on that assignment. While sometimes you cannot avoid cutting on sleep to get some tasks done, it helps to know that you are hurting your productivity and the consequences will show in the long term.
Good sleep is the foundation of high productivity, high cognitive functionality, and great concentration. All these are crucial items that eventually determine the value of your work. Remember that productivity is not only a measure of the amount of work you do but the real value of your work. If you continue sacrificing sleep in order to keep getting the work done, a time is coming when this habit will take a toll on you. The end result is that your productivity will gradually decrease to a level you will never be able to perform any meaningful work.
Whenever you think about productivity, think long-term and not just the assignment or pending projects that can’t wait. You want to remain productive for the better part of your life because that is the only way you are going to be able to achieve your long-term goals. It is so easy to get this done, just sleep well daily.
10. Improved physical performance
Experts who have studied the beneficial effects of sleep, as well as the negative effects of sleep deprivation on exercise, have established that participants in exercises tend to perform at high levels when they sleep well. Poor sleep on the other side reduces physical performance.
This particular study focused on basketball players and the results showed that those players who lacked good sleep ended up not being so good players. Those who had sufficient sleep on the other hand turned out to be top performers in the game.
Sleep improves critical functions such as reaction time, muscle recovery, body power, strength, and eye coordination which are all crucial for enhanced physical activity.
11. God sleep prevents depression
Lack of sleep can lead to depression, which is a common condition affecting millions of people around the world. What you might not know is that deep sleep can reduce your chances of suffering depression by a very high percentage.
Indeed experts have established that over 90% of persons suffering from depression also complain of poor sleep or lack of quality sleep cycles. In fact, poor sleep has been linked to high risks of suicide and other abnormal behaviors. If you suspect that you are highly susceptible to mental health conditions such as depression then please intensify your sleeping routine.
12. Poor sleep can cause inflammation
Poor levels of sleep whether intentional or due to sleep disorders have been linked to heightened risks of inflammation in the body. Insufficient sleep will over time lead to damage of cells and activation of inflammation markers.
Peer-reviewed studies and experiments have found a very strong link between long-term digestive tract inflammation and poor sleep patterns or sleep loss. The inflammation of the digestive tract is known medically as inflammatory bowel disease.
Another study found that people who don’t sleep well and suffer the Crohn’s disease are more likely to relapse compared to fellow Crohn’s disease persons who get enough sleep. Medical experts have in fact suggested sleep evaluation when handling persons suffering long-term inflammation conditions.
13. Sleep repairs the body
During sleeping, the body literally drops all outside activities and turns to focus on itself as it goes through different stages of sleep. It is during sleep that the body’s repair mechanisms are activated, swinging into action to naturally repair any damaged muscles and tissues as a result of those physical and mental engagements that take place during the active period. The absence of sleep denies the body of the much-needed repair moments.
This biological process of repair is achieved through recovery proteins that are produced during sleep. These proteins do the hard work of repairing the body. The proteins are the foundation that establishes the essential building blocks of our body’s cells, allowing a healthy repair that ensures your body is ready to face the next engagements.
14. Sleeping well = smart brain
Yes, this is really not only exciting but awakening. If you have ever dreamt of powering your brain functions to higher levels then the secret is right here. Just hit that bed, forget everything and let your body and mind go to uninterrupted sleep for at least 8 hours of sleep per day. Repeat, be consistent and your brain’s sharpness levels will shoot.
An adequate period of sleep plays a significant role in the brain’s ability to learn, focus, store information and remember things. Excellent amounts of sleep will have super effects on neuronal activity and cerebral activity.
Adequate rest is guaranteed to improve performance across different fields such as academic performance, school performance, cognitive performance. The behavioral performance will equally improve a great deal thanks to good sleep.
15. Sleep improves your attractiveness
Maybe you have noticed that your face and skin look more attractive and flowless when you sleep enough. If you have never realized this and maybe you have not been sleeping well, then pick a day, get enough sleep for at least 8 hours per day for about 5 days straight. Look at yourself in the mirror and take note of how you look at the start of this experiment.
At the end of the five days, take another look at the mirror then compare this current look to the look at the start. You will realize that you look more attractive at the end of the five days compared to how you looked at the start.
Studies have supported this assertion, indicating a strong association between sleep and attractiveness. Regular sufficient sleep improves people’s looks thanks to high levels of collagen production. You will look youthful, and healthier. Experts advise sleeping on your back to get an effect on complexion if this is what you desire.
Sleep is a necessity. Just like your phone can’t function with a faulty battery, your body cannot function with faulty sleep. Studies have shown that people who sleep less experience all manner of conditions including weight gain, overeating, unhealthy BMI, are more likely to develop heart health complications such as heart disease, poor heart rate. They are generally at high risk of heart disease that can lead to all manner of avoidable medical conditions. Get yourself off these conditions by increasing your sleeping time. While you might not be able to sleep enough consistently, try as much as possible to hit at least 7-8 hours of sleep per day.
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