To understand why sleep is so vital to health, first you must understand that your body is the most amazing machine ever invented.
Like all machines since, it needs exactly what it needs, to perform correctly. You wouldn't expect a car to run on water instead of fuel and you wouldn't expect it to run indefinitely without a break.
Like all other machines it performs vital functions, in this case in order for our survival and vibrant health. During sleep your body has a myriad of healing tasks it's performing that cannot be done at other times of the day, as its resources are at that time busy with many other functions.
- Healing damaged cells
- Boosting your immune system
- Recovering from the day’s activities
- Recharging your heart and cardiovascular system for the next day
- Making new cells
You get a cleaning
When someone says they woke up with a clean slate, they’re not kidding. A 2013 study on mice from the University of Rochester Medical Center found that waste removal systems in the brain are activated during sleep, allowing time to clear away toxic trash that would otherwise pile up and cause problems. While the image of your brain “taking out the trash” seems far-fetched, there’s a scientific explanation for this. According to Sleep Science, cerebral spinal fluid is pumped more quickly throughout the brain while you sleep, flushing out the molecular detritus that can lead to Alzheimer’s and dementia over time.
Your brain—and your body—need a full night’s sleep to be ready to go the next morning. This explains why you overeat when you don’t sleep enough: Poor sleep can drive up levels of the hunger hormone ghrelin. Even worse, your energy deprivation will drive your brain to seek high-calorie, quick-energy foods like doughnuts, bread, and other simple carbohydrates.
You work out conflict
If you’re torn between two choices, turn the lights out ! A study published in the journalCurrent Biology found that the brain processes difficult issues during sleep, helping you formulate a decision after waking up.
Understanding the sleep cycle
Understanding what happens during sleep also means understanding the sleep cycle, which consists of two recurring phases: REM (rapid eye movement) and NREM (non-REM or non-rapid eye movement). Both phases are important for different functions in our bodies.
NREM sleep typically occupies 75–80% of total sleep each night. Many of the health benefits of sleep take place during NREM sleep – tissue growth and repair occurs, energy is restored and hormones that are essential for growth and development are released.
REM sleep typically occupies 20–25% of total sleep each night. REM sleep, when dreaming occurs, is essential to our minds for processing and consolidating emotions, memories and stress. It is also thought to be vital for learning, stimulating the brain regions used in learning and developing new skills.
If the REM and NREM cycles are interrupted multiple times throughout the night — either due to snoring, difficulties breathing or waking up frequently throughout the night — then we miss out on vital body processes, which can affect our health and well-being the next day and long term.
Some helpful tips to fall asleep faster
Turn off all screens at least an hour before bed
A warm bath with epsom salts does wonders for calming and getting your body ready for sleep
Exercise every day
No food at least 1-2 hours before bed
Stick to a schedule, go to sleep at the same time every night
Going to bed by 10 and waking EARLY is actually the body's natural circadian rhythm and the energy you will feel once you start will amaze you! Studies show people that get up at 5 am as opposed to 8 am have loads more energy and suffer less sleeplessness and anxiety over all.
If we want our bodies to perform at their peak ability we need to start treating them as the wondrous machines that they indeed are.