Unless you’ve been sleeping (in which case, good for you!), you’ll know that catching some zeds is the next big thing in health. In fact, we spend many years of our life in the land of the nod, but exactly why this is so, and what happens while we sleep, is still somewhat of a mystery. Here’s what we know so far.
TWELVE FUN FACTS ABOUT SLEEP
- Sleep boosts your immune system.
During sleep, your immune system releases special proteins, which need to increase when you’re unwell or stressed. If you don’t get enough sleep, their production, along with infection-fighting antibodies and cells, may decrease.
- Sleep improves memory.
Scientists believe that while we sleep, memories and skills are shifted to more efficient and permanent brain regions. Plus, sleep helps us synthesise new ideas, not just remember old ones, which is why you might suddenly wake up with the answer to a problem you’ve been trying to solve!
- Sleep restores and energises.
When we sleep, the body and brain re-boot cells, clear waste and create memories, all of which are key to protecting our overall health and regulating the functions that guide appetite, mood, cognitive abilities and libido. Hormones also peak during the night, which help repair tissue and build muscle.
- Sleep stimulates creativity.
Or more specifically, Rapid Eye Movement sleep. REM sparks solutions to new problems better than any other stage of sleep, with studies showing an increase in creative capacity when we’re woken from REM slumber.
- Sleep helps with weight management.
Sleep deprivation disrupts the body’s ability to use insulin (the master storage hormone), impairing the removal of fatty acids and lipids. This means they circulate in the blood stream and store up in all the wrong places, like the liver, causing not only weight gain but diseases like diabetes.
- Sleep keeps you mentally and emotionally fit.
Lack of sleep can make people moody and irritable – just think of how cranky a baby gets when they haven’t napped! Studies show that a good night’s sleep fosters resilience, and conversely, chronic sleep disruptions set the stage for negativity and emotional vulnerability.
- Sleep improves concentration and productivity.
Not getting enough shut-eye, closes down our focus, makes us slower to respond, and impairs the brain’s process to cement what we’ve learned during the day.
- Sleep improves your physical health.
Several studies have proved that sleep helps maintain the body’s vital functions, and that processes such as muscle growth, protein synthesis and hormone regulation occur almost exclusively during sleep.
- Sleep slows down the ageing process.
While we all grow older, a tired person usually ages prematurely. This is because of lack of sleep can cause more fine lines, pigmentation and reduced skin elasticity, not to mention slow down the skin’s ability to react to stressors like sun or environmental toxins.
- Sleep makes you happier.
Researchers have found a direct correlation between sleep quality and overall happiness in a person, saying it’s the single most influential factor in rating their daily mood.
- Sleep makes you eat fewer calories.
Individuals who are sleep deprived have been shown to consume more calories, due to a disruption in hormones that regulate the appetite.
- Sleep helps you experience less pain.
Studies demonstrate that insomnia sufferers have a lower pain threshold and the effects of painkillers on them appear to be blunted.