There is nothing like a good night’s sleep to rejuvenate the mind and body. While people may not always appreciate the value of sleep, scientists know that it is essential to good health. In fact, researchers spend much of their waking hours trying to understand the complex processes that happen during sleep.
Scientists have identified some of the pieces to the sleep puzzle, but many of the parts remain a mystery. Still, even if experts can’t explain how it all fits together, they have established that a lack of sleep can affect your health in profound ways.
Getting the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep a night can help you maintain healthy brain, body and emotional functioning. This can improve your mood, memory and concentration as well as your athletic performance, muscle growth and ability to learn. In addition, adequate sleep allows the body to perform vital hormonal restoration activities.
A good night’s sleep also helps reduce stress and anxiety, which in turn can improve mental health. Sleep can also improve your ability to cope with a chronic illness or disease.
If you feel you’re not getting enough rest, try changing some of your habits. Make a routine for going to bed and waking up each day, and stick with it. Establish a relaxing environment in your bedroom with dim lighting, comfortable temperatures and a quiet atmosphere. Try not to use the computer, phone or TV before bed; they can keep you awake.
The human body goes through four stages of sleep during a single night, and each cycle lasts about 90 to 120 minutes. The first stage of sleep is non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep, and it is followed by REM sleep.
During NREM sleep, cells throughout the body conserve energy and slow down. During REM sleep, the brain reorganizes itself, and cellular activity increases in areas that regulate emotion and memory. Studies show that sleep consolidates memories and erases unneeded information from the brain.
Another important function of sleep is tissue repair. During NREM sleep, the body releases growth hormones, including human growth hormone, which helps with muscle development and tissue repair. Sleep also aids the recovery process after a strenuous workout by increasing blood flow to muscles and reducing soreness.
Students who prioritize their sleep are better able to handle the stress of school. They can concentrate in class, do better on exams and have more energy throughout the day. In contrast, those who get less sleep often become anxious and irritable, which can have long-term negative effects on their academic success.
Adequate sleep is also associated with a lower risk of obesity and other health problems. Those who get fewer than seven hours of sleep per night tend to eat more, have a higher BMI and are at increased risk for developing heart disease. Having a consistent schedule of getting at least seven hours of sleep each night can benefit everyone.