Sleep: An Introduction
Sleeping is something that everybody does. An aspect of livelihood that no one seems to pay attention to because it’s just something people do. But why does it matter so much?
Everybody knows that a lack of sleep leads to a cranky and tired start to one's day, but it’s deeper than it seems. The process of sleep provides a multitude of health benefits. At the same time, an ample amount of sleep prevents plenty of health issues.
The average person spends a third of their life sleeping–give or take. That’s a substantial chunk of your life devoted to something mostly seen as menial. Kleen Supplements is happy to map out why sleep is valuable to your health and what you can do to get a better night’s rest.
Why Is It Important to Sleep?
Sleeping affects both the mind and body. It is a crucial process many take for granted because its benefits don’t get noticed until they are missing. If a person has been getting an optimal amount of sleep, everything tends to go well. If that same person stays out late, is interrupted in the middle of their sleep cycle, or plainly just can’t sleep, the problems will show themselves.
In our unconscious state, our hearts slow down, our brains function differently, and our body recharges. Without these internal processes happening, we tend to wake up groggy and tired. More than that, a prolonged lack of sleep can increase the risk of some severe diseases, harming your body in the long run.
The Benefits of Sleep
If you don’t want to hear about the risks your body could experience, that’s completely understandable. Instead, we can outline some benefits you’ll sustain with a good night’s rest. In nearly every scenario, your body and mind are better off sleeping in lieu of powering through the night.
Recharge the Body
Many commonly refer to sleep as “charging your body’s battery.” While you charge your phone’s battery overnight, your body mirrors that concept to a degree. The metaphor can also be comparable to resetting your body for the next day, like the electronic device you’re reading this on does.
Throughout the day (and your entire life), your cells constantly divide, grow, and die in both the body and brain. It’s a naturally occurring procedure that makes the overall mechanism of a body. Sleep is the body’s primetime, where it capitalizes on low energy output and ramps up restoration.
During sleep, your cells repair themselves at an alarming rate. The increased rate at which your muscles and tissues repair, protein synthesizes, and growth hormone levels rise to provide the rest your body needs. Valuable bodily developments make sleep necessary for everyone, especially newborns and children (which explains why scientists recommend younger individuals sleep for increased periods).
While you sleep, your body conserves energy. The body’s metabolic rate and core temperature drop, allowing you to burn fewer calories throughout the night. It’s a partial result of the energy conservation theory, which explains how our body previously needed to conserve more energy when food was scarcer. When humans (and other diurnal animals) hunted for prey, their bodies conserved energy stores and slowed digestion during nighttime. Though modern-day living conditions are not as dire, our bodies still reap the benefits of energy conservation.
A Sharper, Healthier Mind
Sleep provides a complete list of perks that do your body some good. Your cells grow and repair while you save energy for the next day. Similarly, it does much of the same for your brain and psyche.
Does your brain ever feel “foggy” after a stormy night’s rest (or lack thereof)? Or why you might be cranky when you’re tired? Sleep performs wonders for brain function, and operating without it leads to adverse effects. Your brain’s neurons, or its nerve cells, reorganize during sleep, allowing your brain to perform better during waking hours. Reorganized neurons lead to a better capacity for memory and learning.
Memory, learning, and sleep go hand-in-hand. The brain’s glymphatic system, a mainly dormant system throughout the day, engages at night to clear out unneeded information and toxic byproducts from the nervous system. A sleeping brain also converts short-term memories to long-term so you can retain your important thoughts when you wake up. Waking up with a sharper mind is another perk of responsibly snoozing.
Sleeping is necessary for those in a learning environment, but it also transforms your mental health and emotional well-being. The nonconscious brain processes and regulates emotions during sleep. Without rest, the brain exhibits more negative emotional reactions and fewer positive ones (resulting in crankiness or moodiness). If neglected enough, like insomnia, a higher chance the individual will experience depression, anxiety, or panic disorders.
Healthy Weight, Better Performance
There’s a common misconception that your waking body will burn more calories, leading to a skinnier physique. Based on the previously mentioned conservation theory, the body decreases metabolism and digestion during rest. While those facts remain factual, the body maintains a healthier weight during sleep.
A tired brain messes with its hormones, namely leptin and ghrelin. Ghrelin is a hormone that naturally increases one’s appetite. It regulates and decreases during sleep, resisting the urge to wake up and get a midnight snack. Another hormone, leptin, increases its levels during sleep. Leptin is responsible for satiation, or feeling fulling after eating.
When failing to reach adequate amounts of sleep, those levels reverse. Even the most strong-willed night owls tend to look into the pantry because the two hormones are crucial to combating food temptation. Tired individuals usually slow their rate of movement due to a lack of energy, further debunking the tactic of staying up to burn more calories.
No need to worry. A complete night of rest will allow your body to perform better than expected. Sleep clears your head and charges your body to act with purpose. A rested athlete or gymgoer can explore the benefits of better reaction time, physical and mental endurance, motivation, and overall athletic performance. Pushing your limits may sound like a virtue of bravery and determination, but when it comes to sleep, you’re better off tackling your athletic goals the next day.
Boost the Body’s Defenses
We know that the mind, mental health, and body’s energy levels are all linked to your sleep schedule. It does go deeper than that, however. The body relies on sleep in more ways than one.
Regular sleep can prevent some long-term, life-changing complications. The body’s blood pressure levels drop, resting your heart and blood vessels. It also balances the body’s proper insulin function, a valuable factor in steadying blood sugar–thus preventing diabetes or other heart diseases.
Sleep grants your body an immunity boost as well. Whenever an intruder enters the body, its defense system goes on the offensive. The immune system identifies bacteria or viruses and sends antibodies and immune cells to destroy them. A sleep deficiency inhibits your immune system’s reaction time, increasing the chance of sickness. It also hinders your body’s ability to make more immune cells and proteins named cytokines, which reduce infection and inflammation.
How Can I Improve the Quality of My Sleep?
With all that the body does during sleep, you may find newfound importance in going to bed. For some individuals, that may be easier said than done. Plenty people have issues reaching a healthy sleep threshold, but here are some proven hints at a better night (and a better tomorrow).
Reduce your screen time (after reading this article, of course).
- Many people tend to browse their phones or watch television before sleep. Though it works for some, it stimulates your brain and can keep you up. Keeping your electronics out of your bedroom is generally recommended.
Exercise throughout the day (but not right before bed).
- Even though exercise has many benefits, including giving your body more energy, it can help you sleep during the night. Exercise tires your body during the nighttime and increases your time in REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep, or the deep sleep that performs the most benefits for the brain. Be careful not to do it too late, as it is another stimulant.
Keep some–but not a lot–of food in you.
- It’s never a great sign to sleep on an empty stomach. Your brain is more occupied with trying to find food than trying to drift off. Getting a small snack that has melatonin (cherries), magnesium (almonds), or serotonin (kiwis) can help you stay full and relaxed. Other remedies like bedtime or chamomile tea will warm and relax the body.
- Although eating before bed is not a terrible idea, there are some caveats. It is advisable to avoid caffeine, heavy meals, and spicy foods before hitting the hay. Alcohol may initially help you sleep, but it disrupts your sleep cycles.
Remember to relax.
- Sleeping shouldn’t be a stressful event. Stress keeps you awake. A hot shower, an easy-reading book, or a light yoga routine can increase your chance of a successful slumber.
Keep it consistent for consistent REM sleep.
- Sleeping on a consistent schedule helps you maintain your habits. Keeping that consistency also applies to your weekend sleeping habits. Crafting associations can affect your relationship with sleeping as well. If you work from your bed, your brain might associate your bed with productivity and staying awake. Conversely, if you establish a nighttime routine, your brain knows that it can start winding down performing those routine activities.
Don’t hit snooze.
- You might want to clamor to hit the alarm first thing in the morning, but that may leave your body and mind more groggy. Going back to sleep after waking up interrupts your sleep cycle, confuses your body and mind, and leaves you tired to start the day.
A combination of the above steps contributes to better sleep. Take whatever tips work for you because everyone’s relationship with sleeping differs. One thing is constant: sleeping is a unique and necessary bodily function that provides countless value to our lifespan. It’s a non-negotiable process for your mind, body, mood, and–perhaps the most important–your future.