The Health Benefits of Sleep

Sleep is a time when the brain and body are at rest. In fact, it is so important that it’s one of the human body’s seven vital organ systems. During slumber, muscles repair themselves, the immune system heals, and memories are stored. The body also releases hormones that influence everything from hunger to stress levels. While sleeping, the brain also clears away cellular and protein debris that can lead to inflammatory conditions and cell death.

There’s no doubt that a good night of sleep can make you feel more alert, focused and happy. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to what sleep can do for your health. In addition to making you feel energized, sleep can reduce the risk of heart disease, lower blood pressure and prevent diabetes, depression, obesity and mental illness. In a study published in The Lancet, researchers found that sleep improves all of the American Heart Association’s “Life Simple 7” cardiovascular risk factors — proper diet and exercise, weight control, low cholesterol and blood glucose, nonsmoking and sufficient blood pressure.

In the past, scientists have classified sleep by behavioral criteria (such as how many times you wake up) and physiology (electroencephalography, or EEG), but research has recently shown that subjective experience can also be used to define a state of sleep. This phenomenological definition is typically based on self-reports or verbal reports by others, such as when someone claims to be asleep and is later awakened.

Despite this evidence, the behavioral and physiological definitions of sleep remain dominant in clinical practice and in most research. The reason is that these approaches provide a complete picture of the physiology and behavior associated with sleep, and it’s easy to see how they can work together to help you better understand what is happening when you are sleeping.

However, this doesn’t mean that the phenomenological approach is without merit. For example, some researchers believe that a consolidated sleep cycle at night allows humans to conserve energy and avoid predators while still meeting the need for rest. This is a plausible explanation for why the sleep drive grows stronger the longer you’ve been awake, and how the circadian rhythms and sleep cycle work together to cause us to be tired at night and alert in the morning.

Sleep is a complicated and important part of life. It’s important to get enough of it and to do so consistently. If you’re having trouble getting adequate sleep, talk to your doctor. They can help you understand why you’re having problems and give you recommendations to improve your sleep. And be sure to check out our sleep tracker, Oura Ring, which looks like a regular ring but monitors your temperature and heart rate while you sleep to assign a Oura Sleep Score. The more you wear it, the more it learns about your sleep patterns, and the better it can predict when you will go into each stage of slumber.