Why do we need sleep? The answer is obvious: to recover! We all feel it, we all need it.
Sleep does much more for us though, such as preventing stress and diabetes, protecting your immune and cardiovascular system, maintaining your cognitive skills, and regulating your appetite.
You might feel perfectly fine after a couple bad nights, but very often, that’s where the health issues begin.
To understand why maintaining proper sleep is important, it’s essential to know the influence of good sleep on our health.
Table of Contents
- 1 Why sleep is so important: Sleep is the heart of our health
- 2 Why sleep is so important: What good it does for us
- 2.1 Sleep prevents the consequences of stress
- 2.2 Sleep protects the immune system
- 2.3 Sleep prevents diabetes
- 2.4 Sleep regenerates the body
- 2.5 Sleep consolidates learning
- 2.6 Sleep maintains full attention and thinking skills
- 2.7 Sleep regulates your appetite
- 2.8 Sleep protects the cardiovascular system
- 3 Why sleep is so important: Conclusion
Why sleep is so important: Sleep is the heart of our health
The presence of rest and sleep is an integral part of the development of the nervous system in most animal species and, of course, in even the most primitive mammals.
This complex recovery system allows recovery, neuronal reorganization, and activation of specific physiological functions.
The stress and lifestyle habits linked to the evolution of our societies have led too many of us into voluntary or involuntary sleep deprivation.
In the United States alone, studies report that the average sleep requirement is 7.5 hours, but 47% of people sleep less than 7.10 hours per night and 15% less than 6.20 hours.
So it seems that the sleep deficit per week can reach the equivalent of one night of total sleep deprivation.
Multiple studies examined the impact of sleep deprivation in all areas: metabolic, psychological, neurobiological, and cognitive.
They have shown the importance of sleep in maintaining the balance of the body’s major functions.
Simply reaching for the sleeping pills is not the answer though, read why in our other post What are the side effects of sleeping pills? Risks and problems
Why sleep is so important: What good it does for us
Let’s take a closer look at the interrelationships between sleep and the functioning of our bodies.
Sleep prevents the consequences of stress
Sleep deprivation can have an impact on stress hormones such as cortisol.
Typically, cortisol secretion is inhibited when deep slow-wave sleep occurs at the beginning of the night. However, awakenings interrupting a night’s sleep cause peaks in cortisol levels. This leads to significant results:
- increased glucose use in the brain
- decreased secretion of growth hormones
- reduced recovery and regeneration of the nervous system
When you get enough sleep, you produce less cortisol and are less stressed.
Sleep protects the immune system
Sleep helps our immune system function properly and reload itself. There is a link between sleep and infectious diseases. There also seems to be a connection between chronic sleep deprivation and decreased immune system performance.
It seems that one bad night of sleep can already negatively influence our immunity.
In the case of an acute infection, sleep is an integral part of the body’s defense mechanism, especially during the acute phase of response to inflammation.
We then naturally tend to increase our sleep time. This mechanism is shown to be part of a collective response of the body to fight pathogens. On the contrary, sleep deprivation in a healthy adult can harm the immune system.
Sleep prevents diabetes
Reduced sleep time puts you at risk for diabetes. Indeed, sleep deprivation leads to endocrine disruption.
The carbohydrate metabolism is deregulated, with a drop of 30% in the amount of insulin produced. This leads to the beginning of diabetes or the aggravation of existing diabetes.
Studies show that 5 days of delayed bedtime and sleep deficit result in a higher glucose response at breakfast, even with similar insulin levels.
These changes seem to be partly corrected after 2 nights of recovery. Getting both too much and too little sleep puts you at risk for diabetes.
Sleep regenerates the body
Our body produces a specific hormone called the growth hormone. It plays an essential role in children and still helps adults develop, maintain, and regenerate their bodies throughout their lives.
This essential hormone is secreted during deep slow-wave sleep. It helps the body repair and regenerate itself and synthesize substances that are essential for proper functioning.
Sleep consolidates learning
It’s a fact that we still don’t know everything about the privacy of our sleep. But it has been shown that sleep strongly affects certain regions of the brain that are used for learning processes.
Sleep is also the time when the day’s learning and activities are processed. Sleep plays an essential role in brain plasticity and memory.
However, it should be noted that the traces formed during a learning episode are not immediately stored in their final form.
They remain initially in an unstable and fragile state during which they can be easily disrupted or fragmented.
Over time, and particularly during sleep, these traces undergo a series of transformations before being united and fully integrated into the long-term memory.
During the night, the brain organizes the storage of information by sorting and selecting new data and shrinking the existing ones.
Sleep maintains full attention and thinking skills
One’s cognitive functions are all the capabilities of our brain that allow us to interact with our environment. Thanks to them, we perceive, communicate, remember, react, and store knowledge.
Getting enough sleep and good quality sleep is essential to:
- stay wide awake
- maintain attention
- adapt to different situations in daily life
- to be physically and intellectually efficient
Poor sleep has many negative results:
- increases reaction times
- degrades attention and judgment
- makes decision-making difficult
- is a potential source of accidents
Sleep deprivation leads to degraded cognitive function.
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Sleep regulates your appetite
Sleep deprivation is known to cause changes in eating behavior. This is based mainly on physiological and hormonal mechanisms that we are beginning to understand.
To resist the nightly fast during your sleep, the body, more precisely the fat cells in our body fat, secretes a hormone called leptin. Leptin hinders the feeling of hunger and increases energy use.
When we are awake, the stomach secretes ghrelin, a hormone that causes appetite.
If our sleep time is reduced, the balance between these two hormones is disrupted. As a result, the ghrelin levels are increased, while leptin levels are lowered.
It’s shown that sleep deficit impacts the satiety hormone (leptin), whose levels can be reduced by 15 to 28%. The level of ghrelin is also modified. We have a greater appetite for nutrients rich in fats and carbohydrates.
In short: by sleeping less, we eat more and worse. Some studies have estimated the impact of sleep restriction on diets.
Unsurprisingly, they show that weight loss is reduced by insufficient sleep. The person following a diet then loses more non-fat mass than fat mass.
By sleeping less, it is more difficult to lose weight.
Sleep protects the cardiovascular system
While we sleep, our heart is at rest. This means that our heart rate decreases, and our blood pressure drops. These are all essential elements to lighten the heart’s workload and preserve and protect the walls of our vessels.
Sleeping essentially means protecting your heart.
Why sleep is so important: Conclusion
We’ve explained how sleep not only helps your body regenerate and restore your energy levels.
Sleep also allows us to prevent diabetes and stress, think clearly, regulate our appetite, and protect our heart and immune system.
Hopefully, this information helps you to acknowledge the importance of sleep to function properly in your day-to-day life.