Quality sleep plays a critical role in your health as it promotes one’s mental, physical, and emotional well-being. In children, it supports growth and development, and in adults, it promotes muscle, tissue, and cell repair. Quality sleep is not only about sleeping on a high-quality mattress but also about getting enough hours of sleep. Adults need 7-9 hours of sleep while kids should sleep for 10-12 hours, depending on their age. Here are other ways a good night’s sleep improves health and wellness.
1. Reduces Weight Gain
Sleep improves the body’s metabolism, increasing your ability to lose weight. However, people who are continually sleeping for less than the recommended 7-9 hours are likely to gain weight. During a study conducted at the University of Colorado, participants gained two pounds after a week of sleeping five hours a night.
This is because sleep deprivation affects the hormones responsible for regulating appetite and hunger. Leptin is one of the hormones affected as it suppresses appetite and encourages the body to release energy. Ghrelin is another hormone affected during sleep deprivation. The hormone triggers the body’s feelings of hunger, and its production increases when you do not get enough sleep. As a result, The body develops intense cravings for sugar-laden and fatty foods, leading to weight gain.
2. Relieves Stress
The body produces more stress hormones when it is sleep-deprived. This, coupled with other stress factors (disease, loss of a loved one, job loss), can lead to elevated stress levels. Stress is a response that enables both humans and animals to deal with dangerous situations.
In humans, stress causes the autonomic nervous system to release cortisol and adrenaline hormones. The hormones increase the rate of blood circulation to vital organs, preparing the body to react. This reaction is called flight or fight response.
Daily life pressures cause the body to maintain a heightened stress level for extended periods, that elevate when you are not getting adequate sleep. The body adapts to a state of alertness, which delays your ability to fall asleep. This state is worsened if you are sleeping on a low-quality mattress. You can manage your stress levels by exercising, meditating, or taking a warm bath before bedtime. Also, sleeping on a high-quality, e.g., an organic mattress improves your ability to fall asleep. This is because the body assumes a relaxed state regardless of any stressful situations in your life. Avocado Green makes a great organic bed as it is made of natural materials (natural New Zealand Joma wool and natural Dunlop latex)
3. Improves Productivity
Adequate sleep improves one’s memory and ability to coordinate and focus. This is because the brain consolidates memory during REM sleep, which occurs during the latter part of the night. If the body is not getting enough sleep, the brain misses out on REM sleep.
Additionally, short nights deprive the body of deep sleep. This stage is responsible for repairing and restoring body tissues and muscles. As a result, the body gets exhausted rapidly and aches more. A study involving athletes found that lack of sleep caused fatigue 11% faster than when well-rested. Fatigue, lack of coordination, and memory are all factors that affect one’s productivity. Another study conducted in 2010 found that sleep-deprived workers were less productive, spending three times as much of the day managing time.
4. Lowers Blood Pressure
High blood pressure is closely associated with chronic illnesses, like stroke and cardiovascular disease. Sleep lowers blood pressure as it encourages the body to enter a state of relaxation. While the recommended eight hours of sleep is essential as research now shows, short bursts of sleep can also prevent hypertension.
This study revealed that midday naps lower blood pressure at the same rate as making lifestyle changes. This is because systolic (the pressure that measures the force by which blood pushes against your arteries when the heart beats) blood pressure drops by 3 mm Hg every hour you nap. The drop is pretty significant compared to taking drugs as they lower blood pressure by 2 mm Hg only. A drop in blood pressure by even 2 mm Hg reduces the risk of developing a heart attack and other cardiovascular diseases by 10%.
5. Minimizes Chances of Developing Type 2 Diabetes
People with type 2 diabetes often have poor sleep habits (having too much or too little sleep). Chronic sleep deprivation mainly causes hormonal imbalance, increasing one’s risk of developing the disease. This is because the body releases less amount of insulin after eating and releases more stress hormones like cortisol.
Cortisol keeps you awake but makes it difficult for insulin to break down the sugars released when you eat food. The sugars remain in the bloodstream; as a result, increasing the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. The effects are particularly common in people who sleep 4-6 hours per night. These reduced hours of sleep deprive the body of the restorative stage of sleep (deep sleep), which plays a significant role in maintaining healthy blood sugar and insulin sensitivity.
6. Improves Immune Function
Quality sleep enhances the body’s ability to produce immune cells called the T cells. The cells boost one’s immunity by fighting against intracellular pathogens. When the body has a virally infected cell, T cells activate integrins, a sticky protein that allows them to attach to or kill infected cells.
A study that compared sleep-deprived individuals and those who had adequate sleep revealed that the latter group had a higher level of integrin activation. What’s more, people who have less sleep have higher stress hormones, which inhibit the ability of T cells to function effectively.
7. Relieves Pain
If you just sustained an injury, adequate sleep may help relieve pain. Recent research shows one of the neurological effects of sleep deprivation is increased sensitivity to pain. This is because the brain’s natural mechanism of relieving pain becomes impaired.
The part of the brain associated with pain sensitivity remains active in people who get inadequate sleep, interrupting the pain-processing neural cycles. Additionally, the nucleus accumbens that release dopamine hormones are disrupted, reducing the production of the body’s natural analgesia.
Sleep not only helps the body to rest but also fight off a range of health problems. Be sure to get adequate sleep to enjoy all the benefits discussed above. If you prefer taking short naps, ensure they amount to the recommended 7-9 hours of sleep per day. Sweet dreams!