Importance of Sleep.
Updated: Oct 2, 2020
There is a reason why human beings sleep for a third of our lives.
The culture that we have been living in is a culture that significantly undervalues sleep. I'm sure we have heard many times 'I'll sleep when I die'. We are currently living in a sleepless society that only focuses on the hustle. If we have time to sleep, we are seen as lazy or unsuccessful, if we sleep very little, it is seen as success. We want to be seen as being busy, working hard and putting in effort. We don't want the label of being lazy. But the truth is, sleep is essential and you are putting your health much more at risk than you think you are if you keep ignoring sleep.
When we are sleep deprived for just one night, we can already feel it the next day. Driving with lack of sleep is as bad as driving under the influence of alcohol. Our brain functions slower like we are drunk and our reaction time decreases. Even if our reaction time only decreases by a split second, that is enough to cause a devastating accident. Depriving yourself of sleep is is not only dangerous to yourself but to others also. That is why sleep is the most underrated and undervalued component of health.
I was just like to point out that there is no tissue or cell in the body that is not enhanced with sleep and deprived without sleep. Getting sufficient sleep is essential for our minds and bodies, but we think of it as optional.
Some of the benefits of sleep are: - Allows our bodies to actively recover itself - it is during sleep that our bodies get rid of a lot of waste in our bodies and cells. Growth of new nerve cells also happen during sleep which is very important for muscle adaptation and many other functions. That is why sleep is of vital importance especially when we train, if we're looking for maximal results when we train, sleep is needed for the body to recover, adapt and remove waste from cells. When we are awake, our bodies focus on keeping us awake and keeping us focused on what we are doing. That is it's number one priority, not recovery. Recovery only truly happens if we allow ourselves to sleep, so the body has nothing else to focus on except repairing the body.
- Increases your brain function and energy - getting sleep means that your brain function is fully restored, concentration is better and you'll find yourself getting distracted less and able to focus more. Having more energy means you will crave sugary foods less as you don't need a pick me up throughout during the day. This also helps with your nutrition and keeps you on track without cheating. - Improves immune system - as stated above, sleep gives your body time to recover and eliminate any waste from your body. This will also help you with your immune system as your body is given a chance to completely clean and fix itself. That is why people always tell you to rest and sleep earlier when you are sick. Sleeping helps restore proper function to your body systems. - Improves digestive system - when we sleep, we are obviously not eating. This time gives our bodies a chance to clean out our digestive systems. When we eat, our digestive system produces many hormones, enzymes and acids to help with the breakdown, processing and absorption of food and nutrients from that food. The high amount of these acids and enzymes can potentially have negative effects on our digestive tract linings (walls of our digestive system). This is when stomach ulcers and heartburn can occur just to name a few. Sleep gives our bodies a break from these acids and enzymes and allows our bodies to clear out our digestive tract and bring it back to a natural state before food comes in the next day. This allows proper function of the digestive system and can improve absorption of nutrients and can protect against digestive disorders. - Hormonal balance - Our bodies produce many different hormones on a daily basis that works to keep our bodies functioning properly. Throughout the day, there are times when hormones should be produced more and other times of the day it should be produced less. This all goes with our body clock and it primes us to carry out daily tasks. For example, our cortisol (also known as stress hormone) levels should typically rise in the morning after we have rested. This is to get us ready and energized for the day as cortisol is known as the 'fight or flight' hormone. As the day goes on it drops, this is to let the body know that it should be slowly coming to a rest. If we don't sleep or sleep very little, our body doesn't know when the day starts or ends. This means that the body's hormonal balance will be thrown off as it doesn't know when it should start or stop. This is the same for most, if not all, our hormones regulated by our bodies.
These are just the main benefits that only sleep can provide. Can you imagine what our bodies are doing if we deprive it of sleep?? Now I know you're probably wondering how much we should sleep for a day. Well here is the answer:
The general rule of thumb is that adults should be sleeping at least 7-8 hours every night, and children and teens should be sleeping over 8 hours a night. This might seem like it is a lot because we might be used to sleeping less. As I have stated above, we live in a sleepless society. However, this doesn't have to be a drastic change right from the beginning. However long you sleep for currently, just add 30 mins extra every night for a week or two. Then add another 30 mins the next week or two until you reach 7-8 hours. This could mean you sleep 30 mins earlier or wake up 30 mins later depending on your schedule and lifestyle.
I hope we can all see the value and importance of sleep. May we all work towards improving and increasing our sleep! Have a read of our Methods of Improving sleep blog to help with better quality sleep.