Why sleep is important
Sleep is a vital, often neglected, component of every person’s overall health and well-being. Sleep is important because it enables the body to repair and be fit and ready for another day. Getting adequate rest may also help prevent excess weight gain, heart disease, and increased illness duration.
Sleep is essential to protect the mental and physical health of an individual, in addition to improving the quality of life. However, the function of sleep has not always been clear and, until recently, the main function was believed to be the avoidance of sleep deprivation.
During sleep, there are a number of important processes that occur to support the healthy function of the brain and overall physical health, which are particularly important for children and adolescents.
Functions of sleep
Cleaning the brain of toxins
sleeping is thought to help clear out toxins that accumulate in the brain throughout normal daily activities. Beta-amyloid is a protein associated with Alzheimer’s disease is an example of one such toxin. During sleep, channels in the brain expand to allow the flow of cerebrospinal fluid to clear the debris, known as the glymphatic system, due to the similarity to the lymphatic system.
Sleep is also essential for the maintenance of the physical health of the body, particularly in the healing and repair of cells, such as those in the cardiovascular system.
It also helps to maintain the balance of hormones in the body, such as ghrelin and leptin, which regulate feelings of hunger and fullness and is likely to explain the link between inadequate sleep and increased risk of obesity. Other hormones such as insulin, which is responsible for the regulation of glucose in the blood, also change and can result in an increase in blood sugar level. For this reason, chronic sleep deficiency is also linked to a higher risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke, diabetes and kidney disease.
The processes of growth and development are also intricately involved with sleep. Deep sleep triggers the release of growth-promoting hormones, which boost muscle mass and repair cells and tissues in the body.
Information processing & memorization
Sleep plays an essential role in the consolidation of memory and the selection of important information and stimuli received throughout the day. Naturally, individuals don’t remember every detail but tend to prioritize certain information, due to an emotional or other connection.
It is believed that sleeping and dreaming help in the process of sorting through experiences and memories to isolate and store the gist or specific detail of the memory. According to Stick gold, “When we dream, we get the pieces. When we wake, we can know the whole.”
Not only does emotion impact sleep, but there is also evidence that sleep plays a key role in regulating emotion. Emotional events during waking hours affect sleep, and the quality and amount of sleep influences the way we react to these events impacting our general well-being.
When the subjects resumed normal sleep, they reported a dramatic improvement in mood. Not only does sleep affect mood, but mood and mental states can also affect sleep. Anxiety increases agitation and arousal, which make it hard to sleep.
It is shown that sleep supports the formation of emotional episodic memories throughout all the stages that compose memory processing. On the contrary, sleep loss deteriorates both the encoding of emotional information and the emotional memory consolidation processes.
Strengthening immune system
The immune system also relies on sufficient quantity and quality of sleep and deficiency in sleep is linked to difficulty fighting infection and increased risk of sickness.
Finally, sleep is a strong determinant of productivity during the day at work or in studies. People who lack adequate sleep, often take longer to finish tasks, are more likely to make mistakes and have a slower reaction time.