The Amazing Ways Sleep Does a Body Good

senior woman asleep in bed

Many of us probably don’t give a lot of thought to those hours that we’re slumbering. But as it turns out, there are some pretty remarkable things that go on when we’re sawing logs. Your brain is very busy during sleep. The regions of the brain involved in learning, processing information, and emotion are more active when you’re sleeping than they are when you’re awake. Your brain is also eliminating waste more quickly and efficiently while you’re slumbering. Therefore, getting enough quality sleep each day is essential for good health.

Here are just some of the ways sleep does a body good.

Helps prevent disease

Numerous studies have shown that a good night’s sleep may help prevent several serious conditions and diseases, such as heart disease, diabetes and obesity. Usually, the increased risk from lack of sleep becomes serious after many years of deprivation. However, one study showed that people who had gone through induced disturbed sleep patterns developed blood glucose levels that qualified as pre-diabetic after just four days.

Reduces your risk of injury

Sleep deprivation can be deadly. The Institute of Medicine estimates that one out of five auto accidents in the US are a result of drowsy driving. Jodi A. Mindell, Ph.D., author of the book Sleep Deprived No More, says that when you’re overtired, you’re more likely to trip, fall off a ladder, or cut yourself while chopping vegetables. Even the most innocuous household chores can become hazardous when you aren’t fully rested.

Eliminates brain waste

As we mentioned above, your brain eliminates waste during sleep. Several studies have shown that your brain has a wonderful way of eliminating toxic waste, including beta-amyloid proteins, which are associated with Alzheimer’s disease. These studies also discovered that the system that accomplishes this feat is 10 times more active during sleep. So if you’re not getting enough quality sleep, your brain can’t eliminate waste efficiently. A study from the University of California, Berkeley, discovered that poor sleep caused more buildup of beta-amyloid proteins and that this buildup affected people’s ability to sleep well, a classic vicious cycle. The good news is that poor sleep is a highly treatable condition.

Helps you lose weight

A lack of sleep can hinder the ability of the frontal lobe of your brain – which governs decision-making and impulse control – to perform at its best. Additionally, when you’re tired, the brain starts seeking out something to make it feel better, making it harder to resist food cravings. A study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that people who were sleep-deprived tended to eat more late-night snacks and were most likely to choose high-carb snacks.

Boosts your ability to perform

Whether you’re an athlete, a brainiac, or pursue creative endeavors, a good night’s sleep will help you perform at your peak. A Stanford University study found that college basketball players who extended their sleep to 10 hours a night or longer improved sprint times and shooting accuracy. You may have heard the phrase “Let me sleep on it.” Researchers have discovered that your brain is very active during sleep. If you learn something new, sleeping may help you retain your knowledge longer. If you have an issue that needs solving, catching some ZZZs may help you discover a solution to your problem.

Help for the sleep-challenged

So, if you suffer from insomnia or having trouble falling asleep, what can you do? Of course, if the problem is chronic, you should talk to your doctor, who may recommend a sleep evaluation or, in some cases, medication. But here are some tips you can try without a prescription:

  • Create an environment conducive to sleep

Remove digital clocks and other electronics that glow. Set the thermostat to 65 degrees –that temperature has been shown to produce the deepest and longest sleep. Remove clutter from the floors – a messy environment can be stressful. Don’t overdress, either your body or your bed – making yourself too warm can inhibit your body’s ability to cool down and sleep well.

  • Exercise

Several studies have shown that exercise improves sleep. In one study, participants who engaged in a tai chi routine right before bed fell asleep 18 minutes faster and got 48 minutes more sleep.

  • Take a hot shower or bath

A hot shower or bath will adjust your body temperature, making it easier to fall asleep. When you step out of a hot shower into a cool room, your body temperature will drop. This provides your body with a signal that it’s time to rest.

Categories: Senior Health