Sleep on This!
Human beings need sleep to survive. While there is no record of a human dying from sleep deprivation, animal research strongly suggests it could happen. The seemingly simple act of slumber involves a complex choreography of biochemical and physiological processes that keep us functioning.
While you Sleep
At bedtime, your cortisol hormone level dips significantly. It slowly increases through the night so you are alert come morning. Also, your heart rate and breathing slow down. As you sleep, your blood pressure plunges and your body temperature drops. You pump out growth hormones and regulate your hunger hormones.
You are not in a deep sleep most of the night. You cycle through stages all night long, even waking for a second before each cycle begins again. You probably don’t even realize you wake up. While your body rests during sleep, your brain remains active controlling body functions, such as breathing, even as it rejuvenates.
There are two sleep states — rapid eye movement (REM) and non–rapid eye movement (NREM). REM sleep is active sleep. With REM sleep you dream, your muscles relax and your eyes flutter. NREM sleep has four stages, going from drowsiness to deep sleep. The restorative effects of sleep occur during deep NREM sleep.
Benefits of Sleep
When you sleep, your brain recharges, your cells repair themselves and your body releases important hormones that heal and rejuvenate. A restful night’s sleep helps keep your brain sharp, your immune system strong, your waistline trim and your skin healthy.
Sleep lowers your risk for:
- High blood pressure
- Heart disease
While sleep won’t actually help you shed unwanted pounds, regular restful nights can prevent weight gain. How you wonder? Insufficient sleep increases secretion of a hormone called ghrelin, which signals hunger. There is also a decrease in the hormone leptin, which transmits the feeling of fullness. The lack of sleep may actually diminish your capacity to fight the urge for junk food, which is what your body will crave.
Getting enough quality sleep helps your mental and physical health. This results in an improved quality of life. Perhaps that’s why it’s called golden slumber.