8 Benefits of Healthy Sleep

6 Minute Read

What does your body prioritize for a third or more of your day? SLEEP! When we put it this way, it sounds like sleep must be extremely important for the body to function properly. And, we know that sleep is necessary to live. Let’s look at what we understand sleep is, what the benefits are and how you can get better sleep to keep your body healthy.

What is sleep?

For how much sleep has been studied, we don’t fully understand the purpose of sleep. However, we do have a good idea about the different stages of sleep.

Stage 1: During non REM sleep, your body is moving from wakefulness to sleep. This is when you feel like you are “dozing off” and lasts a minute to 5 minutes. Brain waves will look different compared to the wakefulness period.

Stage 2: During stage 2, the body becomes more relaxed and body temperature drops, heart rate slows, and respiratory rate decreases. Brain wave activity will also slow, but it also shows brief spikes of activity. During stage 2, eye movements will also stop.

Stage 3: This is the deep sleep that you love and need to feel refreshed in the morning! Again, muscles become more relaxed and brain waves become slower. It will be hard to wake you up during this deep sleep.

REM sleep: This is when you have those vivid dreams! Your eyes move rapidly, heart rate increases, breathing rates become irregular. As we age, you don’t spend as much time in REM sleep.

How is sleep regulated?

Sleep is regulated by circadian rhythms AND by wakefulness homeostasis. Your circadian clock is roughly a 24 hour period where your body knows when you sleep and naturally wakes up in the morning. Wakefulness homeostasis helps the body determine when it needs to sleep by building up chemicals every hour that we are awake.

Benefits of Sleep

Now that we know what happens during sleep, how does it actually help us?

Decreases Stress Hormones - The stress hormone cortisol helps your 24 hours sleep-wake cycle. When sleep is disrupted, it will severely disrupt cortisol and its proper functions in the body. An overload of stress hormones takes a huge toll on all of the body systems. During sleep, cortisol and adrenaline will decrease.

Improves Heart Health - Lack of sleep is associated with high blood pressure and coronary heart disease. Blood pressure naturally decreases during sleep and its suspected this helps keep your heart healthy.

Supports Immune System - Studies have clearly shown that healthy sleep will enhance immune function. Markers that are tested for healthy immune function increase while you sleep.

Regulates Appetite - Both hormones leptin and ghrelin regulate appetite in the body and both are negatively affected by sleep deprivation. So, your appetite will increase without proper sleep.

Improves Brain Function - Studies suggest that toxins are removed from the brain during sleep. With proper sleep, neuron connections are made and can increase concentration, cognition, and learning.

Regulates Mood - Mood is tethered to your sleep and everyone has experienced a bad mood after poor sleep! Studies also show a direct relationship between sleep and depression.

Improves Blood Sugar - Sleep plays an important role in blood sugar regulation and is tightly associated with type 2 diabetes risk. A disruption in sleep directly affects insulin response in your cells. You need to have a proper insulin response to properly utilize glucose. If glucose levels continue to rise and/or are unregulated, this will lead to diabetes.

Reduces Inflammation - Sleep loss causes an increase in chemicals that cause inflammation. Although inflammation plays an important role in healing the body, rampant inflammation can lead to numerous health problems. High levels of inflammation is found in all lifestyle induced diseases, including heart disease, obesity, diabetes, and autoimmune disorders.

What's Next

Start prioritizing your sleep for better health! Start tracking your sleep and stay tuned for my next blog post about how to get better sleep. If you are struggling with health and need help, sign up for a consultation HERE.

References

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“Brain Basics: Understanding Sleep | National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.” Nih.gov, 2019, www.ninds.nih.gov/Disorders/patient-caregiver-education/understanding-sleep#:~:text=Sleep%20is%20important%20to%20a.

Foley, Logan. “Stages of Sleep.” Sleep Foundation, 14 Aug. 2020, www.sleepfoundation.org/how-sleep-works/stages-of-sleep.

Hirotsu, Camila, et al. “Interactions between Sleep, Stress, and Metabolism: From Physiological to Pathological Conditions.” Sleep Science, vol. 8, no. 3, Nov. 2015, pp. 143–152, 10.1016/j.slsci.2015.09.002.

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National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. “Brain Basics: Understanding Sleep | National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.” Nih.gov, 13 Aug. 2019, www.ninds.nih.gov/Disorders/Patient-Caregiver-Education/Understanding-Sleep.

Nollet, Mathieu, et al. “Sleep Deprivation and Stress: A Reciprocal Relationship.” Interface Focus, vol. 10, no. 3, 17 Apr. 2020, p. 20190092, 10.1098/rsfs.2019.0092. Accessed 12 Aug. 2020.

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“Sleep Basics: REM, Sleep Stages, & More | Cleveland Clinic.” Cleveland Clinic, 2013, my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/12148-sleep-basics. Triantafillou, Sofia, et al. “Relationship between Sleep Quality and Mood: Ecological Momentary Assessment Study.” JMIR Mental Health, vol. 6, no. 3, 27 Mar. 2019, p. e12613, 10.2196/12613.

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