How Sleep Affects the Brain and Body

How Sleep Affects the Brain and Body

Getting enough sleep each night is one of the best ways to stay healthy, as it is key in maintaining mental health, physical health, quality of life, and safety. While one of the most immediate repercussions of poor sleep quality can be decreased efficiency the following day, poor sleep over a long period can put you at higher risk for chronic health problems as well as affect how you well you react, think, work, or learn new things.[1]

If you are already someone who suffers from a chronic illness like migraines or type 2 diabetes, poor quality of sleep can make these illnesses worse. [2]

The Different Types of Sleep

Did you know there are two different types of sleep? Most of our sleep during the night can be classified as slow-wave sleep (SWS), then there is rapid eye movement (REM) - which is often referred to as dreaming sleep. This is where we get most of the rest we need and the hour or two of deep sleep that helps us feel rested.[3]


What is Sleep Deprivation?

Sleep deprivation is when someone fails to get enough sleep. The amount of sleep an adult needs ranges between individuals but is normally between 7 and 8 hours to feel alert and well rested. Teenagers and children need a little more, at an average of 9 hours. While this might seem easily achievable, one in five adults fails to get enough sleep.[4]


What Happens When You are Sleeping?

Sleep is key in making sure your brain has ample time to recover and get ready for the next day. Sleep lets your body reenergize its cells, clear waste from the brain, as well as support learning and long term memory, as sleep plays a large part in converting short term memories to long term ones. [5]

Cleaning out the trash of the day is an important part of sleep. When sleeping, the body pumps cerebral spinal fluid throughout the brain, which acts like a vacuum cleaner, cleaning up all the waste products and toxic proteins. [6]


How You Can Maximize Your Sleep

If you are someone who is always struggling with not getting enough sleep every night, here are some great ways to maximize restful sleep:

  • Stay on Schedule
While this one might seem obvious, it is one of the easiest ways to train your brain and body’s internal clock for when bedtime is. Try going to bed and waking up at the same time every day (yes, even on weekends).
  • Be Mindful of What You Eat and Drink, and Especially When.
Stimulants like caffeine and nicotine take hours to wear off and therefore make it harder to fall asleep, and more importantly, stay asleep. Although alcohol may initially make it easier to fall asleep, it greatly affects your quality of sleep. [7]
  • Don’t Count Down

While it might be tempting to lie in bed seeing how much time has gone by and counting how much time you have left to get a good night's sleep, all that will do will stress you out and make it harder for you to fall asleep. Instead, turn the clocks away from you so you won’t be tempted to watch the time. If twenty minutes tick by and you still can’t get to sleep, try doing something peaceful until you feel tired.


Sleep is one of the most important functions of the body, and is one of the greatest tools in keeping us healthy, both in mind and in the body. Make sure to give yourself ample time to get a good night's sleep.


What are some of the best ways you have found to get a good night's sleep?

--------------------------------

References:

[1] https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/sleep-deprivation-and-deficiency

[2] https://www.cdc.gov/sleep/about_sleep/chronic_disease.html

[3] https://www.sleep.org/articles/what-happens-during-sleep/

[4] https://aasm.org/resources/factsheets/sleepdeprivation.pdf

[5] https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/what-happens-in-the-brain-during-sleep1/

[6] https://www.sleep.org/articles/brain-during-sleep/

[7] https://www.sleep.org/articles/design-perfect-bedtime-routine/