We can all agree that we feel much better and refreshed after a good night’s sleep. The restorative theory of sleep provides a scientific explanation of that special feeling.
Scientific evidence from both animal and human studies has proven our body literally heals and renews itself as we slumber. The majority of restorative functions in the body occur during this time: muscle growth, tissue repair, growth hormone release and synthesis of molecules that are essential for proper cell functioning.
More recent neuroscience suggests that while sleeping, our brain changes itself. Some connections (synapses) between our brain cells (neurons) become stronger, while others become weaker. This process is called neuroplasticity and is essential for our memory and learning. After a good sleep, neurons in our brain replenish their energy, improving our mental performance, mood, health and more.
Our metabolic health also improves. More specifically, people who sleep eight hours per night are much less likely to develop diabetes compared to people who get six hours. Those with poor (short and inconsistent) sleep hygiene have elevated levels of stress hormones and are more likely to suffer from chronic stress. Moreover, immune cells, which are regularly produced in our body, are more successful in dealing with bacteria and viruses when we get enough sleep.
In contrast, when we are sleep deprived, our immune cells are compromised, and we are more likely to suffer from infections and viruses. Even our skin, the body’s largest organ, constantly benefits from a good schedule. It takes approximately 27 days for the skin to renew its cells. This process is more efficient with proper sleep, as the skin heals faster, shows less signs of aging and is more resilient to ultraviolet rays. You can also enhance this process of regeneration with antioxidants and hydrating electrolytes.
Even more striking are the consequences of this deprivation: Our mental performance significantly decreases; attention span shortens; alertness, memory, and concentration are all reduced; reaction time is slower; and we have poorer judgment in day-to-day situations. Reduced sleep can also make you moody and quick-tempered, while chronic deprivation may even lead to anxiety and depression.
Here are some tips to wake up feeling fresh and ready to seize the day:
- Be consistent with both the time you go to bed and get up, even on weekends.
- Block out any distracting noise and eliminate as much light as possible.
- Find a comfortable sleeping temperature; your room should be cool but not too cold.
- Avoid heavy meals before sleep.
- Stay hydrated with essential nutrients, like minerals and water to assist your cells in proper functioning and signaling.
Hydration is extremely important for brain cells which dictate our circadian rhythm and direct us when to sleep and when to wake. If those cells do not work properly, our sleep patterns simply get worse.
Wishing you sweet dreams and solid sleep in 2023!
Sources: 1) https://diabetesjournals.org/diabetes/article/57/10/2555/13406/The-Perfect-Storm-for-Type-1-DiabetesThe-Complex; 2) https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21785188/; 3) Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams, Matthew Walker (P)2017 Simon & Schuster, Inc.