We have so many demands on our time—jobs, family, errands—not to mention finding some time to relax. To fit everything in, we often sacrifice sleep. But sleep affects both mental and physical health. It’s vital to your well-being and health.
Of course, sleep helps you feel rested each day. But while you’re sleeping, your brain and body don’t just shut down. Brain activity, organs and internal processes are hard at work throughout the night.
There are 5 stages of the sleep cycle that our bodies go through every night. During stages 1&2 you are beginning to fall asleep and can be easily woken up. This is when your body begins to relax; breathing and heart rate slow, muscles begin to relax, and brain waves become passive.
Stages 3&4 are of greater importance to our overall health. This is when our body’s systems begin to heal. During these cycles the body begins to repair muscles and tissues, stimulates growth and development, boosts immune function, and builds up energy for the next day. During the 3rd and 4th stage of sleep the body is repairing our immune function and is focused on producing cytokines. Cytokines are a type of protein that targets infection and inflammation, effectively creating the immune response. Without the proper amount of sleep our bodies are unable to produce enough cytokines and can become more susceptible to pathogens, such as viruses.
The 5th stage of sleep is also a time for repair, known as Rapid Eye Movement (REM), this stage is important for brain health. During this stage the brain consolidates and processes information from the day and stores the information in our long-term memory. In stage 5 the brain also works on areas of learning and memory function. This is the stage of the sleep cycle in which we dream!
According to Dr. Micheal Twery, a sleep expert at the National Institutes of Health, to attain the maximum restorative benefits of sleep, getting a full night of quality sleep is important. Although personal needs vary, on average, adults need 7 to 8 hours of sleep per night. Babies typically sleep about 16 hours a day. Young children need at least 10 hours of sleep, while teenagers need at least 9 hours.
There are days when the stressors of life take away from our time of rest. When we allow anxieties of the day to keep us awake, our bodies are not getting the rest and restoration that they need. Our bodies are amazing in their abilities to heal and adapt if we give them the time to do so. There are many ways to improve our quality of sleep such as meditation, proper diet, and a healthy functioning nervous system (chiropractic!). Proper sleep allows your body and your immune system to function optimally. So get some sleep and stay healthy!
Benefits of Slumber. (2013, April). Retrieved from https://newsinhealth.nih.gov/2013/04/benefits-slumber.
Understanding Sleep Cycles. (202). Retrieved from https://www.sleep.org/articles/what-happens-during-sleep/.