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The Benefits and Role That Sleep Plays on our Health

woman who knows the benefits of sleep
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Sadly, it is common for anyone to feel sleep-deprived sometimes. The benefits of sleep are greater than we give it credit for.

Sleep deprivation happens when a person doesn’t get enough sleep, and this could be due to many different reasons, such as wrong body clock, busyness, and stress.

The problem with sleep deprivation is that once it becomes a habit, you could lose your productivity and increase your risks for mental health problems.

As a basic human need, everyone should desire and achieve a high quality of sleep.

Especially with today’s demands and lifestyle, we should all be aware of its implications on our health. If you want to learn more about sleep, here are its roles and benefits.

The Benefits of Sleep & Why Sleep Is Important

Sleep is a basic human need. Just like machines, our body needs to rest and reboot in order to restore functioning. It is vital for our health and well-being.

Studies have shown that lack of sleep could lead to impairment of cognitive and brain performances.

When one is sleep-deprived, you could lose your concentration and focus. In the worst cases, mental health problems.

A study conducted in 2016 indicates that sleep deprivation could lead to the formation of false memories.

According to the results, sleep-deprived individuals are less likely to provide clear and correct post-event information in their responses. The information highlights the importance of adequate sleep to gain maximum cognitive functioning.

Interestingly, sleep also has a direct relationship to physical activities. This was proven through a research study conducted in 2015 among a group of athletes. Results show that inadequate sleep led them to poor exercise performance.

This is because sleep restores bodily functions, including appetite, temperature, hormone levels, and immune system response.

All these are needed for energy production.

In order to maximize strength, these functions must be sustained through adequate sleep. Otherwise, your body won’t be able to hold up mild to strenuous physical activities.

You might also wonder about the relationship between sleep and emotional health. Just like the body and mind, our emotions also are affected by our quality of sleep.

A person who lacks sleep could experience mood swings, anger, irritability, and vulnerability to stress.

Cortisol, a stress hormone, gets elevated by the time we lack sleep. This explains the anxiety, irritability, anger, frustration, and emotional eating we experience when we don’t get enough sleep.

If a lack of sleep doesn’t get resolved over time, the relationships around you could be greatly affected as well!

So why is sleep important? According to Dr. Michael Twery of NIH, “Sleep affects almost every tissue in our bodies.

It affects growth and stress hormones, our immune system, appetite, breathing, blood pressure, and cardiovascular health.”

woman getting good sleep

The benefits of getting at least 7-9 hours of sleep each night

How much sleep do we need? According to the National Sleep Foundation guidelines, a healthy adult should sleep at least 7-9 hours per night.

Getting enough sleep will not just make you feel rested the next day, but will also give you lots of benefits, such as the following.

Sharper Brain Activity

Since sleep is linked to brain activities, getting at least 7-9 hours of sleep every night could increase your brain’s functioning, by improving your ability to hold on and recall details. You will be less likely to forget and slow down in your learning ability.

Mood Improvement

Sleep allows your hormones to process your emotions the right way so that you can identify and respond to situations positively. A study was conducted among a group of Asian elderly to prove the relations between sleep, depression, and anxiety.

The results showed that the elderly with sleep-related problems were most likely to be depressed and anxious.

On the other hand, adequate slumber refreshes your mind and body, allowing you to see life from a better perspective and meet daily challenges better prepared.

Strengthens Immune System

Whenever we lack sleep, our body’s defenses are weakened. Sleep plays a vital role in the fight between our immune system and unwanted bacteria or viruses. Studies have shown that adequate sleep can help us fight off colds or flu.

According to Dr. Eric J. Olson of Mayo Clinic, “During sleep, your immune system releases proteins called cytokines, some of which help promote sleep. Certain cytokines need to increase when you have an infection or inflammation, or when you're under stress. Sleep deprivation may decrease the production of these protective cytokines. In addition, infection-fighting antibodies and cells are reduced during periods when you don't get enough sleep.”

Increase Pain Tolerance

If you want to increase your pain tolerance, here’s some interesting info.

In a study conducted in 2012, a group of healthy individuals participated in four experimental nights to determine the relationships between adequate sleep, mental alertness, and pain sensitivity. The result showed reduced pain sensitivity in these well-rested healthy participants.

Weight Control

Inadequate sleep and rest could lead to stress. Naturally, our body’s response would be to find anything that feels good to compensate for a well-deprived functioning system. This is the reason why sleep-deprived people often squash comfort food cravings.

According to a research study in 2017, lack of sleep could lead to weight gain and obesity.

electronics that mess with benefits of sleep

Consequences of not getting enough sleep

There is a reason why medical experts always urge us to get adequate rest through sleep. One of the reasons for this is because sleep can contribute to short-term and long-term problems in our health. The following are some of the consequences:

Lack of mental focus and alertness

Sleep is energy for the body. It is needed in order to keep the body functioning well. Without adequate sleep, our brain loses its ability to focus well.

Loss of energy

Naturally, when you are sleep-deprived, you will feel very tired and sleepy during the day. This could lead to loss of productivity and obstruction of daily workflow.

Relationship Issues

Sleep deprivation could make you become moody. Bouts of irritability, anger, and mood swings could get you caught up in a fight with others.

Quality of life

The reality is that lack of sleep could hinder you from achieving a quality life. This means you could lose your desire to get involved in normal daily exercises and activities. Your cognitive, emotional, and physical well-being are compromised.

Increase risks for accidents

Lack of focus and concentration are the main reasons why most sleep-deprived people end up in a hospital bed. A new study released by the Oxford University Press USA showed that people who sleep less than 7 hours every night are most likely the ones responsible for and involved in car accidents.

Changes in Appearance

People who always lack sleep are most likely stressed. This is due to the increased cortisol level, the stress hormone in the body. The effects could be drastic from an increase in vital signs to changes in appearance, as evidenced by dark circles under the eyes and premature wrinkling.

How to Improve Sleep

It is important to address sleep problems right away to avoid further damages to your health. Here are some tips to improve sleep.

Start Planning

Once you have become aware of the effects of sleep on your health, it is time to plan a nightly goal. Plan specific action steps so you can make all goals come into reality. Mark sleep as a priority in your schedule and budget your time properly.

Stick to the same sleep schedule every day! For example, instead of spending so much time on social activities, you make some adjustments by cutting off time spent on this to be utilized for rest and sleep. Activities like this can be fun and stress-relieving, but it still doesn’t pay off when your mental and physical health is at stake.

woman meditating for benefits of sleep

Breathing Exercise

We know that certain situations would not let us sleep right away, but you can manage this through different relaxing pre-bed routines, such as breathing exercises. Do this by closing your eyes and paying attention to your natural breathing pattern.

Feel and visualize the air passing through your nose, mouth, throat, airways, and lungs. Do this until you feel the release of tension coming out of your airways as you exhale. This gives a calming effect & eventually letting you drift off to sleep.

Put Away Electronic Devices

Smartphones and tablets could distract your sleeping pattern. The National Sleep Foundation mentioned that these electronic devices can act as stimulants, suppressing the release of melatonin, a sleep-inducing hormone that makes it hard to fall asleep. .Dr. Drerup of Cleveland clinic suggests to put them away at least one hour before bedtime.

Guided Imagery

Oftentimes, what causes one to have trouble falling asleep is excessive anxiety and fears. Guided imagery will teach you to let go of these thoughts by creating a pleasant image in your mind where you can focus your attention to.

That could be a pleasant memory, a scene, or a story that you find relaxing. This exercise helps your mind achieve a state of calmness, slowly drifting you off to sleep. A research study in 2017 shows that guided imagery can reduce anxiety, pain, and insomnia.

Stay away from distractions

Light and sound could disrupt sleep. It is best to move to a dimly lit location free from noise. You can also optimize your sleeping experience by regulating the room temperature as desired and adding aroma to the surroundings.

Avoid consuming caffeine and alcohol before bedtime

Caffeine and alcohol are stimulants. Alcohol disrupts sleep later in the sleep cycle by metabolizing alcohol through the liver enzymes while caffeine can delay the timing of your body clock.

How Nutrition Plays a Role in Getting Sleep

There is a lot to learn about the impact of food choices on sleep. While certain dietary patterns may affect daytime alertness, some may also cause inadequate sleep. According to Dr. Aris Iatridis, “What and when you eat can affect your sleep”.

In a study conducted in 2010, researchers found that women who slept 5 hours or less every night were highly at risk for weight gain as opposed to other women who slept 7-8 hours every night.

This is due to alterations in the appetite-regulating hormones in the body, called ghrelin (appetite-stimulant) and leptin (appetite-suppressant). When sleep is inadequate, ghrelin levels in the body increase while leptin levels decrease, resulting in intense hunger or overeating.

This is why lack of sleep is often linked to obesity.

Sleep deprivation is also linked to a lipid called an endocannabinoid. Endocannabinoid levels increase when one experiences a lack of sleep, resulting in increased hunger for candies, chocolates, chips, and other foods high in calories.

Furthermore, glucose levels in the body also increase when you sleep less, resulting in an increase in appetite and food intake. Therefore, one should give more time in bed to have fewer hours of food during the day.

Fortunately, there are healthy dietary plans you can follow to improve sleep quality. For example, eggs, nuts, dairy foods, bananas, fatty fish, and honey are good sources for promoting sleep. Kiwi is also found to improve sleep, along with tart cherries, tart cherry juices, and rice.

Incorporating low fiber, sugar intake, and high saturated fat into your diet, on the other hand, could lead to a lighter, less restorative sleep with more arousals.

How the Right Type of Bed Plays a Big Role

Back pain and sleeping discomforts could lead to a lack of sleep. While sleeping positions may have a role to play, the type of bed you sleep on can also be a contributing factor to all of these. There are different types of beds, but you will know that you’re sleeping on the wrong one if it’s giving you a lot of discomforts during sleep and back pains every waking day.

Stiff neck, back pain, shoulder pain, and discomforts could cause restlessness, sleep deprivation, insomnia, anxiety, and sudden awakenings in the middle of the night. You could suffer mental, physical, and emotional problems due to poor quality sleep when these things don't get resolved right away, 

In order to avoid these things, you must choose the right type of bed for your body. Such beds should offer optimum comfort and support by relieving pressure, regulating temperature, providing edge support, and easing body movements.

Related Post: Collagen Peptides: Benefits of Collagen Peptides and How to Use Them

References:

Moderate sleep deprivation produces impairments in cognitive and motor performance equivalent to legally prescribed levels of alcohol intoxication
https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/10984335/

Sleep deprivation increases formation of false memory
https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27381857/

Sleep and athletic performance: the effects of sleep loss on exercise performance, and physiological and cognitive responses to exercise
https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25315456/

The Amygdala, Sleep Debt, Sleep Deprivation, and the Emotion of Anger: A Possible Connection?
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6122651/

The Benefits of Slumber: Why You Need a Good Night’s Sleep
https://newsinhealth.nih.gov/2013/04/benefits-slumber

National Sleep Foundation's sleep time duration recommendations: methodology and results summary
https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29073412/

Sleep correlates of depression and anxiety in an elderly Asian population
https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26179204/

Lack of sleep: Can it make you sick?
https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/insomnia/expert-answers/lack-of-sleep/faq-20057757

Pain Sensitivity and Recovery From Mild Chronic Sleep Loss
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3490359/

Does stress influence sleep patterns, food intake, weight gain, abdominal obesity and weight loss interventions and vice versa?
https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28849612/

Sleep deprived people more likely to have car crashes
https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/09/180918082041.htm

Why Electronics May Stimulate You Before Bed
https://www.sleepfoundation.org/articles/why-electronics-may-stimulate-you-bed

Here’s What Happens When You Don’t Get Enough Sleep (And How Much You Really Need a Night)
https://health.clevelandclinic.org/happens-body-dont-get-enough-sleep/

Beneficial Effects of Guided Imagery or Clinical Massage on the Status of Patients in a Progressive Care Unit
https://aacnjournals.org/ccnonline/article-abstract/37/1/62/3660/Beneficial-Effects-of-Guided-Imagery-or-Clinical?redirectedFrom=fulltext

Sleep and Caffeine
http://sleepeducation.org/news/2013/08/01/sleep-and-caffeine

Effects of Diet on Sleep Quality1,2
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5015038/

Can your diet affect your sleep?
https://www.piedmont.org/living-better/can-your-diet-affect-your-sleep

Lose Sleep, Gain Weight: Another Piece of the Obesity Puzzle
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2831987/

Effects of Diet on Sleep Quality
https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27633109/

Fiber and Saturated Fat Are Associated with Sleep Arousals and Slow Wave Sleep
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4702189/

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