Sleep, one of the most vital functions of the human body, is frustratingly elusive for many people, with one in four Americans developing insomnia each year. Despite years of concerted efforts within the scientific community, there’s a lot about sleep that people simply don’t know.
However, scientists and health professionals do understand many facets of sleep and why it’s essential to human health. In case you need a reminder of why you shouldn’t skip out on sleep, no matter how busy you are, here a few key elements that make sleep so important.
1. Sleep Gives Your Body a Break
Getting seven to eight hours of sleep is essential if you want to wake up feeling rested and ready for the day. While you sleep, your body doesn’t have to work as hard as during the day because you don’t expend as much energy. As you sleep, your breathing, heartbeat, and brainwaves slow down, and your muscles relax.
2. Sleep Heals the Body, Literally
Your body uses sleep to heal itself, which is especially important after an injury or a day of heavy activity. As described by the Chicago Tribune, “If there are areas that need to heal, the brain can trigger the release of hormones that encourage tissue growth to repair blood vessels. This helps wounds to heal faster but also restores sore or damaged muscles.” Furthermore, sleep supports the immune system, helping you get over viruses quicker.
3. Sleep Recharges Your Mind
Throughout the day, your body produces adenosine, a neurotransmitter that’s central to many biochemical functions. One function of adenosine is prompting the body to initiate sleep. As adenosine builds up in your body, you start to feel increasingly sleepy. Once asleep, the body decreases adenosine levels, relieving the feeling of tiredness.
Your brain also recovers at night. A restless night can add to your anxiety and stress. Soft, thick mattresses are often best suited for relieving stress. If you need sleep to unwind and relax, consider 12 or more inches to enhance your sleep experience.
4. Sleep Keeps Your Appetite at Bay
Hunger hormones are regulated while you sleep, as is your blood sugar. The hormones ghrelin, leptin, and insulin are responsible for the feeling of hunger or fullness. Inadequate sleep can disrupt these hormones. So if you do not get enough sleep, your appetite may increase, and you could get cravings for high-calorie “comfort” food.
Strategies for Better Sleep
- Regular Routines– To regulate your biological clock, make it a habit to go to sleep and wake up at the same time every day. Doing so can help improve the overall quality of your sleep. Ways to enforce this habit include limiting screen exposure once the sun goes down, performing basic stretches before bed, and not eating anything heavy after dinnertime.
- Support From Your Mattress– Your mattress can hinder your body’s ability to recuperate overnight. Look for a mattress made with a firm and supportive material—like air foam—that will help you recover, especially if you live an active lifestyle. A few air foam mattress benefits include: 1) Unlike traditional memory foam, air foam is temperature neutral, meaning it won’t trap heat. 2) Air foam mattresses put less pressure on your hips and shoulders compared to other mattress types. 3) Air foam is a highly resilient and durable material, which prevents mattresses from sagging.
- Daily Exercise– A great way to improve your sleep is to wear out your body during the day with constructive exercise. Physical activity can also help by raising your body temperature because as the body cools back down, it promotes the feeling of tiredness.
- Stress Relief– Because stress triggers a hormonal response, it directly impacts your ability to sleep. To conquer your stress, you can try meditation, muscle relaxation techniques, or breathing exercises before bed.
Burning the midnight oil is not always the best thing for your mind, body, or goals. A night of good sleep can revitalize your efforts and give you a fresh start each and every day.
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