Sleep is essential, most of us know that. But just what does sleep actually do for the body? Some of the answers may surprise you! Enhances learning, consolidates memories and helps the brain to sort through the information you’ve absorbed during the day. The action of sleep on the brain can be compared to the defragging process used to remove unnecessary data from computers. The brain determines what information is relevant and discards the rest, promoting greater mental efficiency. By pruning away what is not required, the brain is streamlined for learning and the storage of memories.
Promotes a positive outlook
When your mind and body are well rested, you feel more positive and cheerful. People who sleep for 7 – 8 hours per night are less likely to experience symptoms of anxiety and depression.
Releases essential hormones
Human Growth Hormone (HGH) is an anabolic hormone, meaning it helps to build and repair. HGH is associated with youth and vitality and promotes the growth and rejuvenation of muscles, bones and tissue. This hormone is of critical importance to people of all ages.
Follicle stimulating hormone and Leuteinising hormone
These hormones regulate the release of testosterone and estrogen, so a lack of sleep can result in a hormone imbalance causing low sex drive, reduced fertility, low energy and irritability.
Leptin is a hormone that helps regulate appetite by sending signals to the brain that you’re full after a meal. Inadequate amounts of leptin can lead to overeating and weight gain.
Melatonin is produced mainly during sleep, melatonin is a hormone that promotes relaxation and restful sleep. Interestingly, melatonin is produced from serotonin, the “happy chemical” linked with positive mood. People who are depressed can lack sufficient serotonin to produce enough melatonin for adequate sleep. By increasing serotonin levels, melatonin production is supported and sleep improves.
A cancer fighting chemical called tumour necrosis factor is circulated in the body during sleep.
The term “beauty sleep” has a factual basis. Your skin heals from damage caused by environmental pollutants and antioxidants while you sleep, with deep sleep in particular a time when skin cells replenish and rejuvenate.
Blood pressure reduces during sleep, as the heart rate slows by 20 – 30 beats per minute. This is thought to give the heart a rest.
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