Sleep is one of the body’s most valuable and important activities. It is a time when the brain and body undergo critical repair processes. A good night’s rest supports a stronger immune system, better memory and emotional stability, and improved physical health. Adequate sleep has been convincingly linked to a lower risk of heart disease, a healthier body (both inside and out), and a longer life.
Most of us are familiar with the physical benefits of getting a good night’s sleep: feeling more alert and energetic in the morning, having fewer health issues like chronic pain or high blood pressure, and even a lower risk of stroke and diabetes. However, not many people realize that good sleep can also improve mental health and prevent depression.
Scientists have found that, while the brain may seem to be resting, the brain is actually busy making connections and linking events, sensory input and feelings during sleep. This is a crucial process for memory consolidation. The brain also uses this time to eject toxic waste from the central nervous system, which helps it work well when you wake up.
A good night’s sleep is a key ingredient for mental well-being, especially in adolescents. In fact, poor sleep has been linked to a number of mental health problems in teens. These include lapses in attention, reduced empathy and diminished motivation. Studies have shown that adolescent sleep is often affected by stress, and lack of sleep has been associated with increased levels of cortisol, the hormone that leads to anxiety and depression.
Sleep is essential to all the body’s systems, including the heart. In fact, a recent study showed that people who don’t get enough sleep have higher blood pressure and are more likely to develop diabetes, obesity and heart disease. A good night’s sleep can help reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke by helping to lower high cholesterol, improve blood flow to the brain and heart, and reduce the level of triglycerides in the blood.
Another benefit of sleep is the body’s ability to repair itself and recover from the stresses of day-to-day living. For example, during sleep the body makes cytokines, proteins that fight infection and inflammation. It also makes certain antibodies and immune cells, which help to fight germs that can cause illness.
There is much more to learn about sleep, but if you’re a regular sleeper, it should come as no surprise that you have lots of benefits to look forward to each night. If you aren’t, try to incorporate good sleeping habits into your routine – go to bed and wake up at the same times each day, have a relaxing bedtime ritual and maintain a cool environment in the bedroom.