Why You Need Sleep (and What Happens While You Snooze)

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Sleep is such a natural part of life that it’s easy to take it for granted. That is until you’re not getting enough of it. The average adult needs at least seven hours of sleep, yet anywhere from 28 to 44 percent of adults get less, which puts them in a state of sleep deprivation. To truly be at your best, sleep has to be an integral part of your health goals. We’ve put provided the what’s and why’s of sleep along with how you can get more ZZZ’s.

Sleep Builds Muscle

Maybe sleep doesn’t technically build muscle but it’s while you sleep that actual muscle building takes place. The human sleep cycle can be broken down into five or six shorter 60 to 90-minute cycles. During each of these shorter cycles, you go through five sleep stages. As you enter stage III sleep, the cycle in which brain waves begin to slow, the body releases the human growth hormone that stimulates muscle tissue to start repairing injury and daily wear and tear.

Sleep Boosts the Immune System and Protects Long-Term Health

Sleep and the immune system are intricately connected in a couple of ways. First, while you sleep, the immune system releases a special kind of protein that helps keep you asleep. Second, adequate sleep allows the immune system to release proteins that fight off infection and inflammation. During sleep deprivation, levels of these proteins go down, leaving you more susceptible to illness. In fact, studies have shown that lack of sleep contributes to more instances of the common cold. Lack of sleep can also make it harder for your body to fight off infection, which means your illnesses will last longer.

Sleep Helps Regulate Your Appetite and Metabolism

Have you ever noticed that you’re hungrier when you’re tired? That’s because the body releases more hunger hormone and less satiety hormone when you haven’t gotten enough sleep. Food cravings also intensify as the reward center of the brain takes bigger “hits” from food high in fat and sugar. If sleep deprivation becomes chronic, weight gain and the chance of weight-related illness increases.

Getting Sleep One Night at a Time

Your sleep relies on and responds to your personal habits. Small changes can make a big difference in your ability to fall and stay asleep. We suggest:

Investing in Electronic Devices with a Night Mode: Many electronics emit a bright blue spectrum light that dampens sleep hormones. Some manufacturers make devices with a night or night shift mode that changes the spectrum of the light from blue to red. Your other option is to turn devices off two to three hours before bed.

Committing to a Bedtime: The body thrives off of predictability. Pick a bedtime and keep it seven days a week. Consistency allows the body to anticipate your schedule. With a little time, not only will sleep hormones start flowing when you want them to but your body is better prepared to respond to them.

Keeping Dinner Light and Early: Heavy meals eaten too close to bedtime can lead to sleep-disrupting indigestion and discomfort. An early evening meal gives your stomach time to digest and is better for your overall health.

Exercising Regularly: Your physical, mental, and emotional health all benefit from regular exercise. Endorphins boost your mood but the physical exertion also helps you feel more tired at night.

Conclusion

Sleep has a powerful influence on your mental and physical health. It’s a biological necessity that you can’t skimp on without paying the consequences. Make time for sleep and you make time for a better stronger version of yourself.

Stacey L. Nash is a Seattle area writer for Tuck.com whose insomnia led her to research all aspects of sleep. With a degree in communications from the University of Puget Sound, she helps put sleep into the forefront of the health and wellness conversation. When not researching and writing about sleep, she spends time with her husband and four children on their heavily-wooded, twelve-acre piece of heaven.

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