Sleep is a process in which the human body is able to heal, repair, and recover from the stresses of the day. It’s a vital, often neglected component of everyone’s health and well-being.
It can also be an indicator of a problem that needs attention. People who don’t get enough sleep can develop mental health issues like anxiety, depression and stress that can be difficult to manage.
A person’s sleep requirements change as they age, but getting adequate sleep is essential for healthy and active aging. Generally speaking, adults need about eight hours of sleep a night to function properly.
When you go to sleep, your brain sends electrical signals through your neurons (nerve cells). These signals then fall into wave-like patterns, which are associated with different stages of sleep.
You cycle through non-rapid eye movement sleep and rapid eye movement (REM) sleep several times during a typical night’s sleep. When you’re in REM, your eyes dart rapidly behind closed lids. This stage is associated with dreaming and is characterized by short waves of activity called sleep spindles, which may appear as visual images or even as words.
Researchers are still trying to understand how REM sleep works. But some evidence suggests that it’s linked to memory consolidation and can help you remember things you might otherwise forget.
Your heart and blood vessels are repaired during sleep, which lowers your risk of developing cardiovascular disease. It’s also linked to reducing chronic pain.
It can also boost your immune system. When you’re asleep, your body releases cytokines that are necessary for keeping your immune system in good condition.
Those cytokines reduce inflammation and strengthen the immune system, which helps fight off infections and diseases. They can also improve your body’s response to toxins.
Studies show that a lack of sleep is associated with high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity. A good night’s sleep can help prevent these problems by lowering your blood pressure and decreasing insulin levels in your body, which is linked to a higher chance of developing diabetes.
A good night’s sleep can help boost your mood, reduce stress and improve your ability to focus. It can also make you more productive at work and school.
It can help your body recover from exercise and injury. It also lowers your blood sugar and triglycerides.
Your muscles need to recover from workouts. In a phase of sleep called non-rapid eye movement, your body begins to regenerate the tissues that have been damaged during exercise.
This can lead to stronger and healthier muscles. It also increases blood flow to the muscles, which can relieve pain and encourage healing after a strenuous workout.
The amount of sleep you need depends on your age and how busy you are. Ideally, you should aim for seven to nine hours of sleep each night.
You should also try to avoid consuming caffeine or alcohol before bedtime. These can affect your ability to sleep and make it harder to fall asleep.