Sleep: The Foundation of Life

2019 is ramping up to be the “year of healthy” for many people. With modern science, a plethora of information at our fingertips, and a better understanding for the need to take care of ourselves people are buying up the latest gadgets, apps, and anything else they can get their hands on. But, the foundation of a healthy, happy lifestyle might be a lot easier than any of us expected: begin with sleep. Sleep is the baseline for a lot of aspects we want to improve on including our personal life, professional life, and our bodies. As the world becomes more connected and our lives more hectic, we are at a height of sleep deprivation as a society globally and it only seems like it’s going to get worse.

So, why is sleep so important?

Weight loss

Sleep plays an important role in weight loss. First, proper sleep gives the energy needed during the day to be active. Often when people feel sluggish or tired they are less likely to work out or keep their routines. Insufficient sleep can also disrupt hormone production. In this case, specifically ghrelin and leptin which are both related to appetite. Simply put, ghrelin is linked to the feeling of hunger while leptin makes us feel satiated and poor sleep increases ghrelin levels while lowering leptin. This can be where midnight munchies kick in—staying up late can lead us to eating more and later than we normally would. It’s not too hard to see how those hormone level changes along with lack of exercise could inhibit weight loss goals, so save the snacks and get those 8 hours of sleep in.

The Brain

For the brain, sleep does a number of things. A person’s memory and processing may improve with proper sleep and it gives the brain a chance to clean itself. Reaction time, cognitive abilities, and mood are seriously affected by sleep deprivation. A person’s ability to handle stress diminishes without sleep and are at risk for increased likelihood of anxiety and depression. Traffic incidents increase around daylight savings time when drivers lose an hour of sleep so their alertness, reaction, and overall cognitive functions are impaired.

The Body

Sleep doesn’t just affect us mentally but also physically. After a really good workout, despite how energetic a person might have been during it, the body gets sore. Exercise creates micro-tears that lead to the forming of more muscle which leads to our soreness sometimes days after. While there’s a few ways to help with that delayed onset muscle soreness—stretching, ice baths, epsom salts, etc—sleep helps with that healing process. For any injury or sickness, rest is extremely important in the body’s recovery process. There’s a number of things going on for the body while you sleep but growth hormones and prolactin, an anti-inflammatory, is released during deep sleep. Research has also shown that a person’s sensitivity to pain and sleep have an inverse relationship, meaning the less sleep a person gets the more pain they may experience.

The Organs

This is a separate topic from the body because the organs deserve their own spotlight. Sleep’s reach and effect on all parts of a person is astounding. Insufficient sleep is associated with poor cholesterol and blood pressure levels thus increasing the risk of stroke and heart disease. Like bad accidents during daylight savings times, heart attacks and strokes increase during that time as well. Some research shows multi-organ injury through successive sleep deprivation, which is a common problem in society and may explain chronic disease increases. Cortisol, the body’s main stress hormone, is regulated by the adrenal gland which can be disrupted by inadequate sleep. Cortisol controls a number of things in the body so when there’s too much of it problems can arise such as headaches, memory issues, trouble sleeping, weight gain, anxiety, depression, heart disease, and blood sugar issues. There’s also some research that suggests poor quality sleep could lead to an increased risk of certain cancers. Melatonin is a hormone that regulates the sleep-wake cycle and may suppress tumor growth.

Skin and Hair

Beauty sleep isn’t just a saying. A restful night does wonders for the face and hair. Bags under the eyes is one of the more obvious signs of poor sleep but wrinkles and a dull complexion are also key indications. Collagen is produced while sleeping which can prevent wrinkles and even just 5 hours of sleep can make skin drier making fine lines more noticeable. Blood flow is increased during a long slumber giving a glowing complexion and stronger, fuller hair. Cortisol, the stress hormone mentioned earlier, can cause hair to fall out! A full night sleep is crucial for healthy skin, hair, and nails.

This only scratches the surface of the benefits of restful sleep and the pitfalls of sleep deprivation. It is critically important to everyone’s health to do their best to get enough sleep. It can be difficult in this ever-busy and connected world, and there’s no replacement for a full night of sleep, but a nap can offer some benefits as well. It’s also important to remember, there is no such thing as “catching up on sleep”; once it’s lost, it’s gone. Set a bedtime and get in those ZZZs.

We wish you all a good night’s sleep!