Sleep: 8 Reasons to Make Shut-Eye a Priority

Sleep - how much do you get?

Here's a look at eight reasons to make sleep a priority - no matter how busy you are.

1. Your immune system

We know that sleep is necessary for a normal functioning immune system. Numerous studies have shown that our immune system works best when we get adequate sleep. In fact, several studies have demonstrated poor responses to vaccines for influenza and hepatitis when subjects were sleep deprived.

2. Memory

It has been fully demonstrated that sleep is necessary for memory consolidation. Actually, when subjects are allowed a night’s sleep after learning new information, they perform much better on testing than those who did not. This pertains to factual memory, also referred to as declarative memory, as well as procedural memory such as learning to ride a bike or swing a golf club.

3. Your emotional well-being

We know that chronically sleep deprived individuals have a much higher incidence of anxiety disorders and depression. This is probably due to sleep’s critical role in emotional processing which appears to mainly take place during REM (dream sleep) but is by no means only confined to this stage of sleep.

4. Brain health

As I point out in my book Sleep Soundly Every Night, Feel Fantastic Every Day, it is during sleep that our brain performs several regenerative processes. The method of neuroplasticity, where the brain forms new pathways and connections, is very much sleep dependent. Additionally, housekeeping chores such as clearing out various neurotoxins that build up during the day occur at a rate ten times greater during sleep.

5. Tissue repair and growth

It is during sleep that we produce most of our growth hormone. In fact, this production is most closely linked to deep or slow wave sleep. In children, this is intimately linked with their growth. In adults, it is very important in tissue repair. If you are a body builder or an athlete, it is crucial to get enough sleep to allow your musculoskeletal system to restore itself.

6. Your blood sugar

We know that sleep deprived individuals have a higher incidence of diabetes. This is because sleep deprivation leads to insulin resistance. As a result, insulin is unable to get into cells and exert its influence. In recent papers, the American Diabetes Association has been stressing the importance of sleep in preventing and treating diabetes.

7. Weight

Want to reduce that waistline? Get seven to eight hours of sleep. Insufficient sleep leads to excessive production of a hormone called ghrelin. Ghrelin is an appetite-promoting hormone. It also impedes the production of leptin, an appetite-suppressing hormone.

8. Your lifespan

Study after study has shown that those of us who chronically sleep less than seven hours do not live as long. We are far more likely to develop hypertension, strokes, and heart attacks. As a result, we have a shorter lifespan.

What is the take home message? We need to make sleep a priority. Unfortunately, some in our society consider sleep to be a waste of time. In reality, just the opposite is true. Sleep is necessary for our emotional and physical well-being, and there is no substitute.