For thousands of years, philosophers have wondered why sleep is so important to human beings, so much so, that humans spend up to one-third of their lives sleeping. Modern science is learning that sleep does much more than simply rest the body and the mind. Sleep is critical to a variety of body processes, and the lack of sleep can be a serious hazard to your health.
Studies have found that people who do not get sufficient sleep have lower levels of a hormone called leptin. When you don’t produce enough leptin, you feel hungrier and are often more inclined to eat foods that are high in fat and sugar. This effect can make managing your weight more difficult.
Studies have shown that insufficient sleep can lead to reduced production of insulin and the development of type-2 diabetes. Insulin is a hormone that is produced in the pancreas of the human body. This substance is critical in metabolizing sugar. When the body produces an insufficient amount of insulin or does not remove it adequately, the excess sugar can weaken blood vessels and nerves, leading to a variety of medical problems.
Good sleep patterns may also help to protect your from heart disease and stroke. Although the exact mechanism of protection is not known, studies indicate that healthy sleep ensures a number of biological processes that serve to protect the heart and blood vessels.
Chronic sleep deprivation can also affect memory and may increase your risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia. One study indicates that poor sleep patterns are linked to increased levels of beta-amyloid, a brain toxin that is linked to Alzheimer’s disease. Healthy sleep patterns may help to remove these toxins from the brain.
Lack of sleep can also have a negative effect on your ability to fight off colds and other infections. Some studies indicate that individuals who get less than seven hours of sleep may be more vulnerable to catching colds. To keep your immune system primed, arrange your schedule to get sufficient sleep every day.
Good sleep also helps to maintain an even emotional keel. Not sleeping enough can make people irritable and unable to think clearly, which increases their level of stress. Getting a good night’s sleep allows you to shake off minor annoyances and maintain a level emotional state.
Sleep also helps to refresh mental processes by improving observational and organizational powers. These skills help to keep people safe by processing data from the outside world, so that people can foresee hazards and achieve successful outcomes. You may have noticed how sluggish your thinking becomes when you don’t get enough sleep. The ability to assess outside events, quickly and accurately, has helped protect humans from falls, accidents and poor decision-making.
Science is only beginning to understand the importance of sleep in regulating many systems in the body that serve to maintain physical health and emotional well-being. Make sure you get the sleep you need to feel your best, and you will enjoy these many benefits.