Sleep – Why is it so important?

Ah sleep, something that is sorely taken for granted by children but coveted by adults; don't believe me? Ask any parent of a toddler, or even better any parent with 2 or more young children. So why is it that when we are crunched for time, either through unforeseen circumstances or the more common reason of improper time management, time for sleep is one of the first things that is sacrificed to do other things?

Sleep is something that, in my mind at least, is just as important to your body as food, water, and oxygen. Sleep helps to restore not only the body but the mind as well, making sleep one of the most important things you can do in your lifestyle. Lets take a look at a few reasons why sleep is so important:

1. When you fall asleep, your body is still hard at work; your heart is still beating, your lungs are still breathing, and your various bodily processes are still, well, processing. Your body uses this time to heal and to restore itself and while you are sleeping your body produces more leptin, which is a hormone that lets your know you are full, whereas when you do not get enough sleep, your body produces more ghrelin, a hormone that lets you know you are hungry. By getting enough sleep at night, you are more likely to consume less calories during the day since you have more leptin in your system.

2. While you are sleeping in REM Sleep (REM = Rapid Eye Movement) your mind is actually hard at work. During the course of a day, you are exposed to thousands of words, images, sensations, thoughts, and feelings. All of this combined together is literally impossible to absorb and retain, so while sleeping your mind filters through all that input and keeps what is deemed as important and that which is not is thrown out. When we do not get enough sleep, the mind does not have enough time to filter through everything, and things that could be deemed as important can be lost. For those in high school/college/university you may have experienced this already, having to crash study for an impending test you end up staying up very late, getting little to no sleep, and then at test time you can barely remember what the title of the book was nevermind what you studied. Yes, I will agree that part of the issue is stress and anxiety and other factors, but without sleep your mind can not filter through all the information that it was bombarded with, and things can get lost in the shuffle. Another example is the phrase "Let me sleep on it" when making an important decision. That phrase is not just something to say, there is a lot of truth in it. Sleeping will give your mind a chance to review information and may give you a different insight on the decision upon waking.

3. Getting enough sleep can also help you with your emotional state. When you get enough sleep everyday, you wake up refreshed and have a better outlook on the coming day. In my opinion, I compare it to the feeling of having had a productive day the previous day, I feel energized and accomplished, and ready to face the challenges of the day with a smile on my face. By letting your mind and body rest, you will tend to wake up feeling better about things and also less stressfull as well. In the Journal SLEEP, those that slept for 7 - 9 hrs, generally had fewer symptoms of depression. (souce WebMd)

4. Sleep has healing properties for the body as well. When you sleep, your brain will tell your body to release hormones that tell your tissues to grow and repair themselves. Things like cuts and bruises tend to heal faster while you are asleep and sore muscles from workouts tend to feel better. While sleeping, your body also produces more white blood cells, which help defend the body against harmful bacteria, diseases, and viruses.

These are just a few of the reasons why sleep is so important in our lives, simply put while we are sleeping our body systems are hard at work so that when we wake we are ready to face the coming day.