Sleep Series: Why is sleep so important for your health?

Posted on 10.09.2020 |

Learn the powerful health benefits of sleep for your overall well-being

Sleep is as essential to our survival as food and water. 

However, very few Americans actually get enough sleep every night. It’s recommended for adults to get 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night, but 1 in 3 American adults are not getting enough sleep on a regular basis. [1]

And the other 2 in 3? Even if they’re getting enough sleep, it may not be the best quality. It’s estimated that 50 to 70 million adults have a sleep disorder, meaning many of us aren’t getting truly restful and restorative deep sleep. [2]

The problem: many people don’t fully grasp all that sleep does for them at night. Sleep deprivation and poor sleep can be issues on their own, but when added to existing physical or mental health conditions, it can become extremely detrimental to your overall health.

Due to the extreme importance and complexity of sleep, we’ve created a series of articles on sleep. In this first installment, we’ll be providing a general overview of the important health benefits of sleep. Keep reading to learn more! 

The science of sleep

Your sleep cycle is regulated by an internal “body clock”. This operates on a 24-hour cycle known as the circadian rhythm and controls when you feel tired or alert throughout the day. 

After waking up in the morning, you get more tired throughout the day. These feelings will peak right before bed in the evening. Research has shown this sleep drive is linked to adenosine, an organic compound in the brain which increases during the day and is broken down at night by the body while sleeping. 

Your circadian rhythms are also highly influenced by light. The brain receives signals from the hypothalamus and suprachiasmatic nucleus that help your brain determine if it’s day or night. In the morning when the sun rises, your body releases cortisol to promote energy. When light starts to disappear in the evening, your body releases melatonin to induce drowsiness.

Once you’re asleep, your body follows a four stage sleep cycle, with the first three stages being non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep and the last being rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. Your body repeats this cycle throughout the night, with each cycle lasting between 90 and 120 minutes. NREM sleep takes up 75-80% of each cycle, and dreaming usually only occurs during REM sleep. 

The consequences of lack of sleep

It’s necessary for us to sleep every night to maintain proper cognitive and behavioral functions. 

Some researchers believe that people can develop a tolerance to chronic sleep deprivation. Even though their physical and mental capacities are affected without enough sleep, they might not be aware of these issues because a lack of sleep feels normal.

However, a consistent lack of sleep can lead to a multitude of issues, including: 

  • Lack of attention 
  • Reduced cognition 
  • Delayed reactions, and
  • Mood swings.

Furthermore, people with a consistent lack of sleep increase their risk for health conditions such as: 

  • Obesity
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Heart disease
  • Stroke
  • Poor mental health, and
  • Early death. [3]

Sleep is also tied to your emotional and social intelligence. If you aren’t getting enough sleep, you’re less likely to pick up on other people’s emotions and your emotional empathy is significantly decreased. 

Mental health issues such as depression and anxiety have long been studied in relation to sleep. Depression especially has been strongly linked to poor sleep quality and sleep disorders. Researchers have estimated that 90% of people with depression have issues with sleep quality. [4]

The physical health benefits of sleep

Sleep provides many of the healing and restorative properties your body needs to maintain a healthy life. There are a multitude of physical health benefits of sleep, including decreased risk for illness such as heart disease and stroke, and improved immune function. 

When we’re sleeping, our bodies produce the greatest amount of melatonin—a hormone that boosts the production of human growth hormone (HGH). HGH supports muscle growth, strength, and exercise performance, which helps you recover from injury and disease. 

Your body’s blood pressure regulates itself overnight so getting enough sleep can promote better overall heart health reducing the risk for heart disease and cardiovascular illness. [5]

Research also suggests that better sleep quality can help the body fight off infection and effectively strengthen your immune system—something that we should all be aiming for during a season of flu and COVID-19. 

The mental health benefits of sleep

In addition to physical health, there are many mental health benefits to getting a good night’s sleep. 

Research has shown that a proper amount of sleep is linked to:

  • Improved concentration
  • Increased productivity
  • Enhanced cognition, and
  • Stronger emotional empathy. [6, 7]

In conclusion

Sleep is vital to maintaining your overall health and well-being. Sleeping is an intricate process that guides your body through restoration and revitalization throughout the night. 

The health benefits of sleep range from decreased risk for disease to improved concentration and productivity. The bottom line: get the recommended 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night to be the healthiest you can possibly be!

We can help guide you to better sleep! 

During the first comprehensive assessment at Natural Quanta, we ask many questions and run several types of non-invasive tests to see where your overall health and wellness stands. If you have a sleep disorder or are not getting enough sleep, we’ll work with you to help you improve the quality of your sleep and your overall health. 

Want to learn more?

Schedule your assessment

Sources:

1: CDC (1)

2: American Sleep Association 

3: PubMed Central (1)

4: PubMed Central (2)

5: CDC (2)

6: PubMed Central (3)

7: PubMed Central (4)