Getting the right amount of sleep is critical for your health. It can reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes, depression and other problems. It can also help your body heal itself, boost your memory and improve your emotional wellbeing.
Sleep is the time when your brain and body recover from stress, repair damage, strengthen key systems and restore a sense of balance. In addition, it can help you fight off diseases, maintain a healthy weight and improve your immune system.
How sleep works
Your body uses electrical signaling to communicate with your brain and muscles during the day, and this same electrical signaling pattern occurs in sleep. The signals start with rapid alpha waves as you transition into a restful state, then shift to slower theta waves as you drift off into deeper sleep.
The stages of sleep (known as delta, REM and deep sleep) are characterized by different patterns of electrical activity, with each phase involving changes in brain waves, eye movement and body temperature. While you sleep, your body releases hormones and proteins that help repair muscle tissue and other organs.
When you have a bad night’s sleep, your body produces inflammatory chemicals that can increase your risk of heart disease and high blood pressure. A lack of sleep also lowers the levels of cytokines, which help direct your immune system to attack infected cells.
Memory and emotions
If you don’t get enough sleep, your body may forget important memories and emotional experiences. It may also have a hard time processing negative emotions, making you more likely to have mood disorders like depression or anxiety.
Burnout and career satisfaction
When you don’t get the proper amount of sleep, it can negatively impact your work performance. In fact, research shows that those who are sleep-deprived are over 3 times more likely to experience burnout and feel professionally unfulfilled.
In addition, a lack of sleep can have an impact on your ability to think clearly. You’re not able to process information quickly when you’re tired, which can make it harder to concentrate and remember the details of a meeting or project.
A good night’s sleep can also improve your memory, helping you recall events and keep track of your daily to-do list. The brain’s ability to store and consolidate memories is aided during the REM stage of sleep, when brain activity increases.
Pain relief and recovery
The brain’s chemistry during sleep can reduce the pain you feel after an intense workout, or when you are in chronic pain. This is because the body’s physiology shifts during non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep to allow blood to flow to your muscles, promoting growth and healing.
Other ways sleep helps your health
While you are asleep, your body’s immune system is working to repair damaged tissues and cells. It releases hormones and proteins that help you heal wounds, rebuild muscles and strengthen your immune system.
Having a good sleep schedule and avoiding stimulants (such as caffeine or nicotine) can be helpful. However, if you have problems falling asleep, staying asleep or waking up tired during the day, it’s important to speak with a healthcare provider to discuss possible treatment options for sleep disorders.