Good health necessitates a good night’s sleep! But what happens to our bodies if we don’t sleep? Why is sleep vital to us? How does sleeping keep our bodies in good working order?
In a statement, posted on the website of the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, the researchers explain that there is a need for greater emphasis on the importance of sleep in clinical practice and hospital care, public health promotion, education and the workplace.
“Healthy sleep is as important as good nutrition and regular exercise for our health and well-being,” says Dr Kannan Ramar, president of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) in this text, recalling the “important and multidimensional” links of sleep to health and chronic disease.
Why can’t we live without sleep?
Sleep has many vital benefits, for example, it allows:
- the brain to store new information and get rid of toxic waste.
- Nerve cells to communicate and reorganise, which promotes healthy brain function.
- the body to repair cells, restore energy and release molecules such as hormones and proteins, necessary for the body to function properly.
Although the function of sleep is still shrouded in mystery, scientists have discovered that sleep helps the body in several ways:
1. Sleep strengthens the immune system
A study shows that sleep deprivation can suppress the immune response and make the body susceptible to external aggression. Cytokines, proteins that fight infection and inflammation, are produced during sleep, as are some antibodies and other immune cells. A good reason to go to sleep when you feel under attack by a cold or flu, sleep is a real remedy (without being a miracle cure).
2. Sleep helps people feel better about themselves
Sleep has a direct impact on the body and physical health, but it is also critical for mental wellness.
During sleep, brain activity in areas that regulate emotions, such as the amygdala, increases, which has a significant impact on emotional management.
The fear response is also controlled by this area of the brain, which is located in the temporal lobe, and is responsible for directing your reaction when confronted with a perceived threat or stressful scenario.
Because the amygdala is sensitive to sleep, it may overreact if you don’t receive enough.
This explains, among other things, why we lose patience and become agitated over nothing when we lack sleep.
3. Sleep helps prevent Insulin-resistance
Insulin is a hormone that helps your cells metabolise glucose. According to research, sleep keeps cells healthy and helps reduce insulin resistance, which can lead to high blood sugar levels and eventually type 2 diabetes.
4. Proper functioning of the brain
Sleep allows your neurons to reorganise themselves. Sleeping allows the brain to eliminate waste, or more precisely: the glymphatic system eliminates the toxic by-products of your brain, which have accumulated during the day.
Furthermore, as the Centre for Sleep Research and Investigation points out, research suggests that sleep has an impact on memory function. It allows short-term memories to be ‘converted’ into long-term memories. Sleep also acts as a garbage collector, erasing unnecessary information that could clutter up the nervous system.
Sleep helps the brain to function properly and has a positive effect on learning, problem solving, creativity, decision making and concentration.
5. Regeneration of cells
Our bodies need sleep in order to restore themselves.
Sleep allows cells to heal and renew, according to SciTechDaily.
Various processes are visible during sleep, including muscle repair, protein synthesis, tissue growth, and hormone release.
6. Sleep helps weight maintenance
Lack of sleep has been linked to a higher body mass index (BMI) and weight gain on several occasions.
Sleep affects your weight by controlling hunger hormones. As Healthline explains, ghrelin increases appetite and leptin increases satiety. During sleep, ghrelin decreases but lack of sleep unbalances the secretion of the hormones, raising ghrelin and lowering leptin. This makes you feel hungrier, so you eat more and gain weight.
Having trouble sleeping?
Sleep disorders are not new but they have been amplified by the global pandemic.
While it is advisable to consult a health professional in the event of persistent problems, certain practices can give you a helping hand to enjoy recuperative sleep on a daily basis.
Use the 10-3-2-1-0 method to sleep better.
The tip is based on time periods associated with activities to be avoided before bedtime.
For example, 10 hours before bedtime, you should not drink coffee. This gives the body plenty of time to eliminate the caffeine and its stimulating effects.
3: no meals or alcohol 3 hours before bedtime. This will help prevent discomfort.
2: It is not advisable to work two hours before bedtime. We allow our brain to rest.
1: 1 hour before going to sleep, we remove any light source from the screens. Thus, the smartphone, TV, tablet, computer … are replaced by a book.
0: corresponds to the number of times you have to press the snooze button when you wake up in the morning.
Education on sleep and sleep disorders is lacking in medical school curricula, whereas better sleep health education would provide more patient-centred care for all those suffering from common sleep conditions such as sleep apnoea or insomnia.”Dr Kannan Ramar, JCSM.
The AASM reminds us that untreated sleep disorders are linked to increased risks for cardiovascular health, diabetes, obesity, work and traffic accidents. According to a recent survey in the United States, more than one in three adults and children do not get enough sleep, a proportion that rises to almost 75% among high school students.
Advice from the expert
Fortunately, cognitive abilities return with a good night sleep.
- Don’t spend too much time in bed
Avoid spending too much time in bed. For example, if your body naturally falls asleep at 11 pm, there’s no point in going to bed at 8 pm hoping to catch up on sleep; your body won’t be ready to fall asleep, you’ll stress out and make your insomnia worse.
- Get up as soon as you wake up in the morning
As soon as you are awake in the morning, get out of bed. Don’t try to go back to sleep to regain lost sleep.
Sleep is essential to our lives and lack of it, whether chronic or occasional, has immediate effects on our health. While death from sleep deprivation is quite rare, it can happen.