Sleep is a crucial part of maintaining good health. It helps to reenergize the body’s cells, clear waste from the brain and support learning and memory. It also plays a vital role in regulating mood, appetite and libido.
Everyone needs sleep – but what exactly does it do? For years, scientists have been trying to discover the answer. They’ve discovered that sleep affects almost every system and tissue in the body – including the cardiovascular, immune, hormonal, metabolic and cognitive systems.
During sleep, the cardiovascular system heals and repairs blood vessels and processes that maintain your body’s blood pressure, sugar levels and inflammation control. But when you don’t get enough sleep, this process becomes sluggish and causes your heart to beat faster, increase your risk of cardiovascular disease.
A healthy diet, exercise and a balanced sleep schedule are all important for your body’s overall health. But the way your sleep affects your body isn’t as well understood as other aspects of healthy living.
In the past, sleep was thought to be a relatively static state. But recent research suggests that sleep has many different phases, each with unique properties and benefits for the body and mind.
There are two main types of sleep: Non-rapid eye movement (NREM) and rapid eye movement (REM). While REM is sometimes referred to as “paradoxical” because it seems to have characteristics quite at odds with the traditional view of the restorative deactivation of the brain that underlies NREM, the fact remains that both kinds of sleep share complex brain activity.
Scientists now know that REM sleep involves a specific type of electrical signaling, or brain waves. These waves vary in frequency and intensity, with each stage corresponding to a different level of depth in the sleep cycle.
These wave patterns are associated with a range of brain functions, from the processing of sensory stimuli to the formation of new memories. The changes in the brain’s electrical activity also have a significant impact on how you feel, and how your body responds to stress and hormones.
Getting a good night’s sleep is important for your overall health and wellbeing, so it’s important to talk to your doctor if you need help. He or she can check for any conditions that may be affecting your ability to sleep and recommend strategies for improving your sleep.
During sleep, the brain clears out waste from the central nervous system. This is called the glymphatic system and it removes toxic byproducts that can build up during the day. It also helps your body’s immune system and reduces the risk of certain diseases.
The immune system:
Several studies have shown that when people are sleep deprived, they have a harder time fighting off infections and disease than those who are well rested. Researchers have found that people who are sleep deprived also tend to be less responsive to vaccines.
If you are sleep deprived, you might also be at higher risk for developing depression, anxiety and panic disorders. A lack of sleep can also affect your memory and lead to a slower response to stress.