Why Sleep Matters

Why sleep matters?

Sleep matters because it rejuvenates us, it restores our bodily function and at times feels like it helps our spirits. When we sleep well, we feel well and happy. Our focus, attention, memory and creativity work better. Sleep just works for us.

As you wake up in the morning and start your life: work, family, house, do a little stressing, talking, exercising, eating and thinking, you start to consume energy and oxygen which in turn produce a byproduct called free radicals or oxidants. Free radicals are molecules that cause damage to our cells. During sleep, our body restored this energy reserve including important functions such as our immune system.

I imagine the function of sleep and wake in terms of grocery store shelves. When we shop at the store, the shelves will begin to get empty at the end of the day. After store hours and into the wee hours of the night, big trucks arrive and bring big boxes so the night shift employees will open them and refill those shelves. Sleep sort of works that way- to refill the brain’s and body’s shelves. Hint !: sleep is not a waste of time or lost life.

How does sleep do its works to restore our health every night? Growth hormone is preferentially secreted during deep sleep (slow wave sleep) and it allows cell repair and restoration.  During REM sleep, the brain stops the production of neurotransmitters (brain chemicals) such as serotonin and norepinephine in order to allow their system to regenerate (takes a break, vacation sort of). The immune system for example needs that sleep process to be fully operational: Interleukins (IL) and tumor necrosis factor (TNF) are proteins known as cytokines that are vital to our defense against harmful bacteria and viruses; in fact, TNF goes after cancer cells. These cytokines are released during sleep and are believed to maintain our immune function; their levels drop in the morning shortly after we wake up.

Tips on how to make the most of your sleep

  • Keep healthy attitude towards sleep. Your body needs it. Try to find out how many hours you need. Some need 5 hour, others might need 9 hours. An average person probably needs 8 hours. If you get 5 hours Monday through Friday and you walk around groggy and sleepy and then on weekend you get 8 or 9 hours and your feel great, it means that on Monday-Friday you are not getting enough sleep. Increase your hours until you feel refreshed in the morning (without the help of shower or coffee).
  • Keep a regular sleep and wake pattern. Going to sleep at variable hours of the night, waking up whenever you feel like it or taking multiple naps is not helping your health.
  • Getting the right kind of sleep also matters. Aim for a good quality sleep, a non interrupted and consolidated type of sleep.
  • If you get sick (with a cold for example), sleep is one your best medicine. Go home and sleep. If you notice that when you get a flu or some other illness you feel sleepy; that is your body telling you to get to bed and sleep so it can boost its own immune system to fight the nasty bugs.
  • If you suspect a primary sleep disorder such as sleep apnea or restless legs, get medical help so the hours you sleep are good quality and not interrupted by these disordered.