If there’s something we didn’t understand when we were kids, it’s why our parents were so strict about our sleep schedule. We didn’t necessarily understand at the time why sleeping was such a big deal, and how this simple action was so beneficial to our health. And it is completely normal, because the only thing we wanted to do was to go play outside with our friends and feel completely free from any responsibilities.
Fast forward a couple of years, going to sleep is now something we are looking forward to, as it allows us to take that needed break from our daily duties, such as work, school, etc (even if these may also prevent us from getting enough sleep) . Because let’s be honest, our daily duties and responsibilities often force us to jeopardize our sleep schedule. Leaving us with little to no sleep at all. Which can have a serious impact on our overall health. Indeed, sleep itself is not a luxury at all. It is a daily activity that our body and mind require to keep ourselves healthy, fresh, and focused.
Unfortunately, having the recommended amount of sleep is not something really taken seriously by most people. With our current lifestyles, which demand us to work at least 8-9 hours a day, we often put sleep aside in favor of productivity and entertainment. We only have 24 hours in a day, better get the most out of it right?
We ourselves, often jeopardize our sleep schedule to achieve more and more in a day. Thinking that indeed, the more you work, the better the outcome will be. We didn’t know at the time that our poor sleep schedule was limiting our productivity, and jeopardizing our health and well-being. As we dig a little bit more about the importance of sleep on our body and mind, we wanted to share the impact that sleep can have on our bodies. Morpheus’s arms have never felt so appealing!
Understanding the 4 cycles of sleep
We all know that a proper sleep schedule is essential to keep our minds and body healthy. We know that because we’ve heard it several times from our family and our friends. While they are absolutely right, they often don’t offer us a real explanation of why sleep is crucial for our health. And to completely understand the impact, we must understand how sleep works in the first place.
Sleep is often divided into 4 distinct cycles, where each of them is as much important as the other. According to Harvard University, Stages 1 and 2 are where we start to unplug from the world (Harvard Business Review, 2009). In other words, these two stages allow you to feel unconnected to the outside world (you know the feeling when you’re not completely sleeping but you’re not aware of your surroundings either?). These two stages lead you to the third stage, also known as deep sleep.
It’s in this third cycle, the deep sleep phase that both your body and brain are the “less active”. This is when your body is in full recovery mode. Indeed, “this is the stage when the body repairs and regrows tissues, build bone and muscle, and strengthens the immune system” (Patel et al. 2022). Ever suffered from night terrors or sleepwalking? Well, these generally occur in this stage.
The last stage is probably the one we can personally feel the most. Why? Because it’s in that stage that dreams and nightmares occur. This stage called the Rapid Eye Movement is indeed the one responsible for any dreams or nightmares that we experience during a night of sleep. During this phase, breathing becomes more erratic, your blood pressure generally increases, and your brain metabolism can also increase by 20%. It’s in this stage that your body gets the more agitated. And we can definitely feel it, especially when a nightmare wake us up.
Sleep helps boost your immune system
Now that we understand a little bit better what our body go through during our sleep, we can now focus on the positive impact it has on us. And the first impact is directly associated with our ability to fight and prevent diseases.
Indeed, one of the many benefits sleeps has on our body, is how it can help us boost our immune system. According to Health Canada, several important hormones are released throughout the sleep cycle. These hormones allow us to fight infections and repair any damaged cells within our bodies (Health Canada, 2022). Sleep also provides the rest needed by our immune cells to fight diseases.
Sleep can impact your mood and productivity
Ever woke up in the morning feeling absolutely tired with no energy whatsoever? Or have you ever felt a lack of patience during the day for a situation that doesn’t affect you that much normally? If so, a poor night of sleep might be the cause.
Indeed, sleep itself has a direct impact on our mood and productivity, simply because it allows our brain to get the rest it needs to perform small and huge task we need to accomplish during the day. The more quality sleep you have, the better your energy levels will be. However, lacking sleep will do the exact opposite, as your energy level will be lower. Which can cause you to have a mood disorder and lead you to focus easily on negative things. This is why people with a sleep disorder have bigger tendencies to suffer from depression.
Moreover, sleep also directly impact productivity. Indeed, experiencing a lack of sleep during the night has direct consequences on your productivity. When facing sleep deprivation, your brain chooses to focus on lighter sleep cycles (Stage 1 and 2), which affect the amount of REM sleep you get (Field, 2009). By getting less REM sleep, it becomes much more challenging for your brain to keep a good amount of concentration, even on one thing (and it becomes of course, even more complicated to manage several tasks simultaneously). All-nighters suddenly become less appealing, aren’t they?
Sleep can help you prevent weight gain
One of the most unknown impacts of sleep on our body (in our opinion) is definitely the impact it has on helping us prevent weight gain. Before reading a little bit more about the benefits of sleep on our health, we had no clue that this simple activity could have such an impact on gaining weight.
Let’s be 100% clear though. Sleeping won’t necessarily help you lose weight. However, having the right amount of sleep during the night help you fight cravings throughout the day. How come? Well, basically, when you don’t get enough sleep, your body has the tendency to produce a little bit more ghrelin, a hormone that boosts appetite. At the same time, your body reduces its production of leptin when it lacks sleep, which is one of the hormones responsible for the feeling of satiety. In other words, the less you sleep, the more you increase your chance of feeling hungry the next day. And the less you sleep, the more difficult it will be for you to feel full after meals. Definitely, one of the worst combos you can have if you’re trying to avoid gaining weight.
There are only 24 hours in a day. And with all the obligations that we have, we always put sleep as the last thing we “have to do” in our day. Not only because it’ll ultimately be the last thing that we’ll be doing, but also because we don’t necessarily see it as an activity that can make us more productive. In fact, we often associate it as a liability to our productivity.
But with all the scientific evidence that we shared previously, we can now truly understand how important good sleep is for our body and mind, but also for our productivity. Has coffee now lost its place as an ally to your productivity?
- Tags: Health