The Importance of Sleep

A growing body of evidence shows that sleep is fundamental to good health and well-being. Insufficient sleep is associated with many diseases and can affect the way you think, react, learn, work, and get along with others. Sleep supports the healthy function of your heart and blood vessels, brain, metabolism, respiratory system, immune system, and emotional responses. If you have a chronic (long-term) health problem, getting inadequate sleep can make the disease worse.

How much and how well you sleep depends on many factors, including age, environment, health, diet, habits, and other personal choices. You can get more healthful sleep by practicing good bedtime routines, avoiding too much caffeine and other stimulants in the evening, and limiting screen time before you go to bed. You can also improve your sleep by reducing or eliminating stress, if possible.

Researchers are only beginning to understand all the functions of sleep. However, scientists have identified a number of important ones.

Growth and Healing

Sleep allows the body to heal, especially after injury or illness. It is also important for tissue growth and repair. In addition, sleep helps keep the hormone balance in the body that is important for normal growth and development during childhood and adolescence.

Mood and Emotions

Insufficient or poor-quality sleep is associated with depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and other mental disorders. It may also contribute to the formation of negative thinking patterns and rumination, which can lead to feelings of sadness and irritability. Good-quality sleep is linked to the consolidation of positive emotions, which can improve mood and help you cope better with stress and set realistic goals for yourself.

It is thought that, during evolution, nighttime sleep developed as a survival adaptation to avoid the risk of attack from predators after dark. Another possibility is that it promotes the body’s energy conservation, since it reduces the metabolic rate.

During sleep, your brain’s glymphatic system removes waste products that build up throughout the day. It also restores the balance of chemicals in the brain that regulate hunger, thirst, and the body’s temperature.

Insufficient or poor-quality sleep is associated a variety of health problems, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, and cardiovascular disease. It also may affect your memory and ability to learn. Getting enough quality sleep is important for both your physical and mental health, but it’s difficult to know how much sleep you need to feel your best. This article focuses on general guidelines for adults, but children and teens should talk with their healthcare provider about how much sleep they need to stay healthy.