Why is Sleep So Important

Why is Sleep So Important

Ah, sleep. It’s a wonderful thing when we wake up in the morning feeling totally refreshed and alert from a good night’s rest. That energy needed to go about our next day is great but there’s so much more that happens within our bodies when we drift asleep each night. Let’s dive in.

Did you know that sleep is the second most influential lifestyle factor that determines our weight?  It’s one step below diet and one step above exercise.  That’s right – getting a good night’s sleep is more important to your health than exercise. Take a second for that mind-blowing fact to sink in.

So, why is this the case?

When our bodies are asleep they go through sleep cycles that last about 90 minutes each. Within that cycle of time, your body goes from NREM (Non-Rapid Eye Movement) to NREM 2 and NREM 3 until you reach the REM (Rapid Eye Movement) stage and the cycle starts over.

When your body progresses through these sleep stages certain things occur. One of the most important being hormone regulation.  As we sleep, our body produces the amounts of hormones that we need to best achieve homeostasis.  This includes things such as growth and thyroid hormones as well as many reproductive hormones.  You can see how this is so important for keeping our bodies healthy enough to fight off disease and generate new, healthy cells to restore older, less functioning cells.

It also regulates our hunger hormones which is why a bad night’s sleep often leads to the high calorie cravings the next day as your body is trying to tell you it needs another energy source to replenish what it didn’t receiving the night before.

But, wait, there’s more!

In recent studies, it is seen that in sleep our body cleans house by clearing away toxic byproducts that may otherwise cause problems if left to increase.

It also allows our brain to sift through information that has been taken in during the day and chooses what’s committed to memory and what is filtered out.  It is theorized that the brain cell connections that are used most often are strengthened as we sleep, and the least used connections are weaken thus keeping what’s important for your daily life and letting the rest slip away so your brain can be more efficient.

So how much sleep is a good amount?

Well, if we go back to the weight influencing factor, studies have shown that people who sleep an average of 8 to 10 hours a day had significantly less body mass than people who only slept 4 to 6 hours. This also ties in to the hormone regulation factors as well – with less sleep your body can’t regulate its normal amount of hormones.  When the hormone that tells you you’re hungry isn’t in check, you may begin eating more than necessary and gaining undesired weight.

A staggering 1/3 of Americans get less than 6 hours of sleep a night and there’s only 3% of the population that can healthily function on just 6 hours.  So, getting 7 to 8.5 hours of sleep is the goldilocks sweet spot.  We personally try to aim for 7.5 to hopefully wake up just at the end of a sleep cycle so we don’t feel too groggy or jolted by our alarms.

The most fascinating thing about all of this is that we still don’t know everything there is to know about why and how our bodies function during sleep.  Scientists are still working hard as you snooze your way into healthy living.  So, when you wake up tomorrow morning, thank your body for all the hard work it did while you dreamt away knowing that the benefits of a good night’s sleep can lead to a lifetime of health and happiness.

Rosalyn & Nick

If you would like to learn more about the topics discussed see below:

Want to know more about what your body does during sleep check out this article.

Interested in the stages of sleep? Visit this site.

If you’re curious about how sleep can affect your body, we loved this podcast with Joe Rogan and Chris Kresser .