Medically reviewed by
Dacelin St Martin, MD
Triple board-certified in Sleep Medicine,
Internal Medicine, and Pediatrics.
Far too many of us don’t place enough importance on the amount of sleep we get on a nightly basis. We tend to rush from one thing to another, constantly glued to social media, thoughtlessly checking, and rechecking posts. All of this plays a huge part in damaging our sleep patterns and making it difficult to get the recommended 7-8 hours of sleep every night.
Sleep is a cog in the wheel of wellness, for both mind and body. Of course, any old sleep isn’t enough – you need good quality, undisrupted sleep to feel rejuvenated the next day. Sleep gives your body a chance to recover, renew, and rejuvenate itself, helping prepare for life’s challenges.
To help you understand just how vital sleep is and why it should be a huge priority in your life, let’s look at how sleep affects you.
Sleep & Your Mind
Health is an umbrella term that encompasses not only the physical body but the mind, too. Having a regular amount of good quality sleep is vital for memory, concentration, focus, and good mental health.
Helps You De-Stress
Occasionally, you encounter situations that cause you to feel emotional or stressed; however, when you sleep, worries are put on pause, giving you the reprieve you need to relax. Sleep is vital in the battle against chronic stress. It can be extremely dangerous for physical and mental health when sleeplessness is left to build over time.
Vital For Brain Health
Sleep is key for optimal functionality of your brain, including how nerve cells (neurons) communicate with each other. Recent findings suggest that sleep plays a housekeeping role as it removes toxins in your brain that build up while you are awake.
When you fail to get the standard core sleep that your brain needs, you experience something called a cognitive deficit, which leads to problems processing information and retaining information. Basically, you feel like you’re in a fog.
As a result, you may forget things, and you may also notice that your general movement and reaction times are sluggish. You may feel snappy and irritable because sleep is vital for mood regulation.
While you’re sleeping, your brain is recalling memories from the day and consolidating them. When you don’t get enough sleep, you become forgetful, and you’re less able to recall memories.
With quality sleep, however, the opposite is true. If you’re studying or learning something new at work, sleep is vital to help you remember what you’ve learned, helping you easily recall the information when needed. Lack of sleep means you have gaps in your memory and, therefore, in your knowledge.
If you’ve ever missed a night of sleep, you’ll know how hard it is to concentrate the next day.
While you’re sleeping, your brain is recovering and resting for the following day. When you get sufficient sleep, you’re more focused, which makes it easier to be creative.
The creative process is easier and more prolific when we wake up feeling rejuvenated. The theory is that the two main phases of sleep, namely REM and non-Rem, work together to help us find creative solutions by helping us connect information we already know to less conventional concepts.
While you’re sleeping, your body is busy healing and repairing damaged muscles, cells, and tissues. Sleeplessness affects the way you look because a constant lack of sleep can cause you to age.
Your skin will sag and wrinkle because of increased cortisol levels and decreased collagen production. We need collagen for skin elasticity and firmness, which supports the notion of “beauty sleep.”
When you regularly sleep well, you boost your heart health. However, when you regularly have less sleep, you have a greater chance of increased blood pressure, which puts you at risk of heart problems, such as stroke, heart attack, and cardiovascular disease in the long run.
While sleep isn’t 100% responsible for weight control, it does play a part. Hormones regulate hunger and satiety, which are affected by how much sleep you’re getting. When you sleep less, you find yourself feeling hungry, craving foods that are higher in fat and carbs. As a result, your insatiable hunger can increase your risk of obesity.
Having a regular amount of sleep helps to strengthen your immunity.
Cytokines are a type of protein that are released during sleep. They help your body fight off invading pathogens, like viruses and bacteria. They are a vital part of your immune system and your protection against illness.
When you have less sleep, cytokine production is reduced, which makes you more susceptible to catching colds, viruses, and other illnesses.
Sleep isn’t just going to bed at the end of the day and resting until the next morning. It’s a vital process that your mind and body need to effectively ensure your overall health and well-being. If you feel that your sleeplessness is affecting your quality of life, talk to your doctor.
There are many options out there for treating sleeplessness; however, one of the most effective therapeutic approaches is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia (CBT-I).
There are programs that are accessible online that employ the concepts of CBT-I to help change how you think and feel about sleep. The best part though is that these programs offer a comprehensive approach that gives you the lifelong tools you need to get the best sleep possible.
1. Every Mind Matters | One You. (n.d.). Every Mind Matters. https://www.nhs.uk/oneyou/for-your-body/sleep-better/
2. Brain Basics – Understanding Sleep (August 13, 2019). National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. From https://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/Patient-Caregiver-Education/Understanding-Sleep#:~:text=Sleep%20is%20important%20to%20a,up%20while%20you%20are%20awake.
3. How Losing Sleep Affects Your Body and Mind. (2020, January 23). Sleep.Org. https://www.sleep.org/how-losing-sleep-affects-your-body-mind/
4. Yong, Ed (May 15, 2018). A New Theory Linking Sleep and Creativity. The Atlantic. From https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2018/05/sleep-creativity-theory/560399/