How Can Sleep Heal Your Body?

Sleep is an essential process that rejuvenates the body for optimal functioning. Sleep basically consists of two stages: Non-REM and REM sleep. The amount of sleep you need for the optimal functioning of your body varies from person to person. An adult an average requires 7-9 hours of sleep to feel refreshed and healthy. For efficient functioning of the body, young adults need 8-10 hours of sleep; teenagers need 9-11 hours of sleep while children and infants need more than 11 hours of sleep.


Does Your Body Heal While You Sleep?

Sleep is an important determinant of good health. Sleep disturbances are associated with numerous health problems. It is essential for the maintenance of body homeostasis and optimal functioning of the physiological processes in your body.

First of all, sleep deprivation causes elevated levels of adrenaline and cortisol which can affect the health of your skin, making you feel and look tired, unhealthy and unattractive.

Below are more harms that inadequate sleep can do to your body:

1. Sleep and growth hormone function & muscle repair

During sleep there is surge in growth hormone production. Growth hormones are essential for the repair and regeneration of your tissues and muscles during sleep. While sleeping, the energy consumption of your body is less and blood flow to the brain is reduced. However, the blood flow to the areas needing repair and rejuvenation is increased. Under these conditions growth hormones function optimally and ensure growth, repair and healing.

Muscle injury occurs in muscle fibers and causes damage to the blood vessels leading to bruising and bleeding. Growth hormones play an important role in recovery from muscle injuries. It has been found that proper sleep helps in speedy recovery as the production and action of growth hormones is optimal during sleep. Does your body heal while you sleep? Yes!

2. Sleep is needed for a healthy heart

A good night’s sleep is necessary to prevent cardiovascular diseases. Scientists have found that in middle aged subjects, the risk of developing hypertension increases if they sleep for short durations of 5 hours or less. It is necessary that you sleep for 7-8 hours per night to prevent hypertension.

Sleep deprivation has been found to increase the levels of hormones epinephrine and norepinephrine (which belong to the group of hormones called catecholamines) in the body. These hormones are part of the fight or flight response in the body. Increase in the levels of these hormones due to sleep deprivation is an indication that your body reaches a state of stress. Elevated levels of epinephrine and norepinephrine in sleep deprived individuals can increase the risk of cardiovascular diseases.

C-reactive protein (CRP) is a substance that is involved in the inflammation process in the body and higher levels of circulating CRP is indicative of vascular damage. In a research study, it was found that in sleep deprived individuals, CRP levels and systolic blood pressure were elevated. Does your body heal while you sleep? There are clear evidences that a good night’s sleep helps protect your heart from damage and if you sleep less than 7 hours a day you are at a higher risk of developing cardiovascular diseases.   

3. Sleep and appetite control

A study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine showed that sleep deprivation causes reduced levels of leptin, increased levels of ghrelin and increased appetite and hunger.  Research also shows that sleep deprived individuals are prone to unhealthy food choices as they lose their control over their food choices. Research shows that in sleep deprived individuals, there is an increased urge to eat more food in order to acquire energy for the extra waking hours. However, they lose control over the quantity of food they take and eat more than is required. If you are planning to maintain your weight or lose weight you need to have good sleep hygiene. Moreover, normal sleep patterns also allow you to make healthy food choices which will ensure your overall health and wellness.  

4. Sleep and diabetes

Sleep is also essential for normal glucose metabolism in your body. Sleep deprivation increases the risk of developing diabetes mellitus. Reports from research studies show that sleep deprivation was associated with low glucose tolerance and insulin resistance. Sleep deprivation has also been shown to increase levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which can lead to insulin resistance.

It also decreases testosterone levels which can lead to obesity, prone to infections and men’s fertility problems. A good night’s sleep is necessary for the normal functioning of your endocrine system and normal glucose metabolism.

5. Sleep and immune system

Sleep is essential for a healthy immune system. Sleep deprived individuals have been found to be more prone to infections. If you are sleep deprived you are more likely to develop cold and flu. When you have an infection, your body produces compounds called cytokines to fight the infection. Sleep deprivation reduces the production of cytokines, making you susceptible to infections. Since your immune system is suppressed when you lack proper sleep, it can also affect your body’s response to vaccinations. When you are sleep deprived, vaccines such as flu vaccines fail to produce sufficient antibodies and it takes longer for you to respond to immunizations. Does your body heal while you sleep? Yes, a good night’s sleep heals your body by ensuring that your immune system is functioning well.

6. Sleep and good mental health

Sleep is essential for optimal functioning of the brain. While you sleep your brain processes the information you have acquired during the day and makes new neural pathways that ensure memory and learning. Sleep is also necessary for focus and concentration, decision making and creativity. Sleep deprived individuals face decision making problems, have less control over their emotions and behavior. They also exhibit suicidal tendencies and suffer from depression. It has been reported that, people suffering from insomnia have a higher probability of developing depression and anxiety disorders. Children and teenagers who are sleep deprived are less productive at school and suffer from mood swings and depression. 

7. Lack of sleep leads to poor sex life and fertility

  • Sleep deprived people show less interest in sex and their performance is also affected. Sleep deprivation leads to low levels of testosterone, which can affect your sex life.
  • You need good sleep for your reproductive health and fertility. Follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) is required for normal menstrual cycles and fertility. It has been found that women who slept on an average of 7-9 hours had higher levels of FSH than women who slept for fewer hours. A good night’s sleep increases your fertility and your chances of having a baby. 
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