Samantha Kent is a guest post contributor who is a researcher for SleepHelp.org. Her favorite writing topic is how getting enough sleep can improve your life. Currently residing in Boise, Idaho, she sleeps in a California King bed, often with a cat on her face.
Diet and exercise are touted as the building blocks of a healthy lifestyle. But your physical, mental, and emotional wellness require more than food and a good workout plan. Sleep—the most basic of biological needs—is a full partner in how your body feels and functions. Without it, the brain changes how it works, leaving you feeling less than your best.
Strength and Muscle Recovery
Sleep acts as a permissive state for muscle recovery. During the first of the deep sleep phases, the body releases human growth hormone (GH). GH floods the muscles and stimulates the muscle recovery needed to handle daily physical stress and injury. A change in your normal sleep pattern or if the length of your sleep cycle gets cut short, it alters and shortens the duration of GH release. Consequently, the muscles don’t spend enough time recovering and you’re left tired, sore, and prone to injury.
Full Brain Power
Sleep also influences your mental capabilities. Throughout the course of a day, toxic proteins and amino acids build up in the small spaces between the folds of the brain. Left in place, these toxins can slow down communication between cells.
They’re flushed out by the brain’s glymphatic system. Glymphatic activity increases by 90 percent during sleep. Without that cleansing time, cell communication gets clogged and slows down. In addition, the brain releases adenosine to further slow the brain in the hopes it will encourage sleep.
Sleep’s effects on the brain also spread into the realm of emotions. Lack of sleep causes the small portion of the brain responsible for processing emotions to become overreactive to negative situations, thoughts, and feelings. Normally, the emotions are tampered by the brain’s logic and reasoning center, but without enough sleep, this portion of the brain slows and diminishes its influence.
The result—increased stress, aggression, irritability, and anxiety.
Boost Your Wellness with Better Sleep
Your overall health and wellness rely on adequate sleep. You can affect the quality and length of your sleep cycle with the right habits and behaviors. We’ve put together a list of some of the easiest ways to keep your sleep cycle on track.
- Create a Predictable Schedule: Cycles like sleep that take place every 24 hours rely on predictability and consistency. Going to bed and waking up at the same time each day allow your body to fully adjust and respond to sleep hormones.
- Build a Supportive Sleep Environment: Your body responds to the environment in which it sleeps. Follow the rule of three—cool, dark, and quiet. These three conditions help reduce distraction and keep the body relaxed. Also, check your mattress to make sure it caters to any pain points, your sleep position, and weight.
- Watch Your Light Exposure: Light both helps and hinders the sleep cycle. Plenty of natural light during the day suppresses sleep hormones so you’re awake and alert. Come night time, as natural light fades, sleep hormones prepare for their big release. However, at night, artificial light suppresses sleep hormones much in the same way. Turn off your screens and dim the lights to help your body stay in sync with the Earth’s natural light/dark pattern.
Wellness requires a holistic approach to the mind and body. The benefits of sleep extend to all the body’s systems into thinking and processing of information as well as how you physically feel. Sleep provides the balance needed for health and mental wellness that lasts beyond a day to an entire lifetime.