We’re back with part 2 of our blog post on The Wonderful Things That Go On In Our Bodies During Sleep. So far, we’ve seen how sleep consolidates memory, how it clears the brain of toxins, and how it keeps the heart, eyes and immune system healthy. That’s already quite a lot, but there’s plenty more that sleep does. From helping us look younger to increasing metabolism and keeping weight in check, we explore how sleep plays a role in all of these. By the end of this blog post, we hope that you’re inspired to set aside enough time each night for this most important activity and see the numerous possibilities good sleep opens for you.
Our bodies release what’s called human growth hormone or HGH when we sleep. It’s a protein produced by the pituitary gland that regenerates tissue and helps children grow. It’s released at its peak during the onset of stage 3 sleep (deep sleep). However, when you’re sleep-deprived, HGH isn’t produced as much and isn’t able to do what it’s meant to. Skin looks unhealthy, wrinkles form, and hair becomes lank.
Sleep also boosts the production of cells that aid in the repair of the brain. Good sleep helps in the formation of myelin that insulates nerves in the brain and spinal cord. This insulating layer enables electrical impulses to transmit more efficiently along nerve cells.
The digestive system is constantly at work as it processes the food we eat. It requires a lot of energy to perform its functions and sleep makes sure it gets that. It’s a fact that when we don’t get enough sleep, we crave food and not really the healthy kind. The hunger hormone ghrelin increases and compels us to eat more even though our bodies don’t need the extra food. We pile on weight which in turn can lead to gastrointestinal problems like acid reflux that keeps us from sleeping well at night. Lack of sleep also stresses the body out as it doesn’t have a chance to repair itself and this stress can contribute to issues like heartburn and maybe even irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
The same HGH that helps cells regenerate and reproduce also helps muscles recover from wear and tear. During sleep, blood flow also increases to the muscles and helps them recover and re-energize. This is especially important for athletes who work their muscles more than others and tend to suffer injury more frequently.
It may sound strange but sleep even affects the health of hair. The better you sleep, the better your hair. Chronic sleep loss places tremendous strain on the body and causes it to react the same way it would stress. It elevates levels of the stress hormone cortisol that can damage the hair. In fact, sleep deprivation (and stressful factors like traumatic events) can cause a type of temporary hair loss called telogen effluvium. This is when hair follicles are pushed into the resting phase so that hair doesn’t grow for a while and ultimately falls.
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Exercise and a balanced diet are always recommendations for maintaining a healthy weight. So is sleep and the better you do, the healthier your metabolism. However, poor sleep interferes with the metabolism and can cause weight gain. This is because it makes ghrelin rise and leptin (a hormone that also regulates appetite) to fall, making you feel hungry even though you don’t need to eat. Lack of sleep can also make you feel tired and compel you to make poor judgments like binging on junk food and indulging in a midnight snack. Over time, you gain weight.
For many of us, sleep is a blissful end to the day and what we need to recharge our batteries. However, we don’t often stop to wonder what happens when we sleep. Instead of shutting down, our bodies kickstart a host of processes geared to keep us healthy and energized. One way to ensure that we get the better sleep possible is by using the best mattress available. And, the next time you settle in for the night, take a little time to realize the gift you’re giving yourself just by sleeping. It’s a wonderful thing and one that should never be taken for granted!