We all know what it’s like when we don’t get enough sleep or don’t get “good enough” sleep. We’re fatigued, feel stressed and have a hard time focusing or concentrating. It’s not a good state to be in. But what exactly does “good sleep” accomplish for us? Let’s look at the benefits of a good night’s sleep.
First off, the body uses deep sleep between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m. to repair the body by rejuvenating the cells in your muscles and other tissues. During this period of sleep, blood is rushed to the muscles to replenish them with oxygen and nutrients, giving you strength for the next day.
Sound sleep also strengthens the immune system. Thus it is easier for you to fall sick when you’re not sleeping well. Hormonal health is also dependent on good sleep. Studies have shown that even a single night of sleep deprivation elevates levels of cortisol, a stress hormone, which then leads to higher levels of stress the next day. Depression is also often the result of poor sleep. One study found that people who slept only 4.5 hours a night reported feeling consistently sad, mentally exhausted, stressed and angry.
REM (rapid eye movement) sleep helps us process and save information taken in during the daytime. One of the reasons babies need to sleep so much is that they are processing huge chunks of new information everyday. It has even been conjectured that fetuses spend all their time in REM while in the womb in order to develop their brain functions. Deep sleep also produces glycogen, which is a brain fuel. When glycogen gets depleted, the neurotransmitter adenosine is released as a signal that you need sleep.
Type 2 diabetes can also result from lack of sleep because sleep deprivation leads to slowed glucose processing. Inadequate sleep has also been found to increase the secretion of insulin after eating. In short, poor sleep can result in a higher blood sugar level, which can result in type 2 diabetes.
Finally, lack of sleep has deleterious effects on your cardiovascular health, raising blood pressure and often leading to stroke. One study found that sleeping fewer than six hours a night dramatically increased one’s risk of heart disease.
So, for your mind and body’s sake, you definitely need to sleep well. If for some reason, you’re among almost half of all Americans who report problems with “insomnia” (a catch-all for many sleep issues and disorders), you need to seek professional help immediately. Don’t hesitate; there’s simply too much at stake to go on sleeping poorly.