The importance of sleep for the human body

We have already mentioned the importance of sleep when we figured out what a healthy lifestyle is. Our body is a very smart system that carries out many functions, so it needs to be given time for rest and recovery. What happens to the body during sleep, what will happen if you do not sleep and if it is possible to compensate for the lack of sleep with oversleeping on weekends, we will discuss in detail today.

So, first things first.

An adult should sleep 7-8 hours a day. This time is enough to rest and gain strength for further work.

What happens to the body during sleep?

Scientists are still deeply studying this issue. Here is what science already knows about this.

Muscles relax, body temperature drops slightly, heartbeat and breathing slow down. The reserves of glucose replenish, the work of internal organs normalizes, cells restore, processed substances and toxins are removed from the body, immunity restores due to the activation of T-lymphocytes, and many different hormones are produced during sleeping.

What happens to the brain?

The brain is always working, but when we sleep, it also turns into "sleep" mode. Nevertheless, the brain during sleep is able to process memories, create associations, make decisions, restore memory, remember and analyze information.

Matthew Walker in his book “Why We Sleep. The New Science of Sleep and Dreams” writes: sleep is a big cleanup of the brain. Odd memories are deleted, actual ones are replayed and transferred from the short-term memory to the long-term one. During slow wave sleep, the brain detects rubbish - unnecessary neural connections - and removes it. During REM sleep, we reflect and strengthen neural connections - perhaps that's why we see dreams.

How does the body know when to fall asleep and when to wake up?

Our body obeys an internal biological clock that regulates circadian rhythms. On average, a person's biological day is 24 hours and 15 minutes. Biorhythms, by the way, are responsible not only for wakefulness and sleep, but also for body temperature, blood pressure and even appetite.

In the central part of the brain, in the anterior lobe of the hypothalamus, there is an important area - the suprachiasmatic nucleus, which is responsible for the internal biological clock. The light is recognized by neurons in the retina. And then, if there is no light, the secretion of melatonin increases.

What is melatonin?

Melatonin is a sleep hormone. It begins to be produced already in the dark and speeds up the process of relaxation and immersion in sleep. But daylight and artificial light, on the contrary, reduce the production of melatonin, that is why the wake-up signal comes in. It also has quite strong antioxidant properties that improve vision, increase growth hormone, and even help heal ulcers.

Phases of sleep 

Slow sleep - occurs immediately after falling asleep, lasts about 90 minutes. In this phase, pressure decreases, breathing becomes calm, eyes smoothly become motionless and the brain is inactive. The person is relaxed and recuperating.

REM sleep (REM - rapid eye movement) - occurs after slow sleep and lasts about 10-20 minutes. At this time, the temperature rises slightly, breathing becomes more frequent, the brain is actively working, and the eyeballs under the closed eyelids make rapid movements - hence the name REM. In this phase, we have dreams. Lack of REM sleep may cause a decrease in emotional IQ.

So the phases alternate with each other and make up one sleep cycle. And then the cycles are repeated. During the night, on average, we go through 4-5 such cycles.

Why is getting enough sleep so important for our health? 

Evidence-based medicine states that most diseases and malfunctions in the body occur as a result of stress. Sleep helps to cope with the stress accumulated during the day, while lack of sleep, on the contrary, exacerbates well-being and contributes to even stronger stress levels.

Is it possible to get enough sleep for the future?

Many people do sacrifice their sleep for work a lot, hoping to get some sleep over the weekend. Unfortunately, it doesn't work that way. Only fatigue accumulates - as nature has foreseen. This is what will happen to the body if you do not get enough sleep:

  • You will immediately feel a deterioration in well-being, it will be difficult to collect your thoughts, concentrate on something, there will be a feeling of a "leaky head", since memory also suffers.

  • Productivity will decrease. Yes, so you can't sleep less and work harder. The body simply will not be able to do anything, all forces will be directed to "survival" under stressful conditions from lack of sleep.

  • Motivation decreases, apathy and bad mood appear.

  • Immunity will lose vigilance, its protective properties will deteriorate significantly, there is a risk of getting sick.

  • In order to replenish the reserve of strength at least somehow, with a lack of sleep, ghrelin, the hormone of hunger, rises, which almost always leads to overeating, and then to excess weight.

  • Now imagine what a person looks like when all of the above happens? Appearance will suffer.

How to recover enough during sleep?

Everybody had this situation: bad sleep during the night, and in the morning you felt broken and still tired, and there is a whole working day ahead. Here are a few life hacks that will help you recover as much as possible overnight and feel refreshed in the morning.

  • Cut out caffeine in the afternoon

Caffeine is a powerful stimulant for the nervous system. Even if it seems to you that coffee in the evening “does not work for you,” for quality sleep and recovery of the body, it is better to give up caffeine already six hours before bedtime.

  • Get tired

Physical activity helps to fall asleep faster.

  • Get ready for bed

At least an hour before bed, ventilate the room, turn off the lights, put your phone in “night mode” and put it aside. It promotes melatonin production and relaxation.

  • Choose red lights instead of blue at home

It is better to sleep in the dark, but if you are used to leaving the night light, then give preference to the red one. Well, if you have a smart home system, and it is possible to change all lighting to red before going to bed, definitely use this function. Blue and white lights interfere with melatonin production and can cause sleep problems. For this reason, modern smartphones have a “night mode” function with a softer and warmer light.

  • Use a smart alarm clock

These alarms monitor the phases of sleep and wake up in the phase of REM sleep. Some have features to simulate dawn, the sounds of morning nature, or even the smell of coffee and croissants. All this allows you to feel rested and not too sleepy, and the effects on the receptors naturally motivate the body to wake up.

  • Take your time to get out of bed in the morning

Do not jump with the first sounds of the alarm clock. Give yourself a few more minutes to be in a state of light nap and only then get up. Smooth awakening beneficially affects our mood and well-being throughout the day.

In conclusion, treat your body with love and gratitude and give it the needed rest. And, please, do not get fooled by the myths that you can trick the brain, sleep less and work more. The body will still take its toll, and the consequences of lack of sleep can even lead to various diseases.