Updated: Jun 16, 2021
We've all been there before. Little or no sleep results in a day of procrastination and Facebook scrolling.
When was the last time you had a good night's rest? In Savasana during yesterday's yoga class?
When we think of our health, we tend to focus on what we eat, how we exercise, and mindfulness. It's time to wake up! Sleep is not a luxury or an indulgence. It is also a critical part of our overall physical and mental health and wellbeing.
A sleep-deprived body is like a car with a flat tyre. The car is running, but it is moving slowly with fewer capabilities and less power. The longer you drive in that condition, the more you will damage the car.
So, what happens when we sleep?
The brain stores new information and gets rid of toxic waste. When you sleep, your brain’s waste clearance system removes waste from the central nervous system. It removes toxic byproducts from your brain that build up throughout the day. This allows your brain to work at an optimum level when you wake up.
Nerve cells communicate and reorganise, and this supports healthy brain function. This process is responsible for learning, memory, creativity, decision making, and concentration.
The body repairs cells, restores energy, and releases molecules like hormones and proteins. If you regularly exercise, you will find that the body heals faster and stronger with consistent, quality sleep.
Brain activity increases in areas that regulate emotion, thereby supporting emotional stability. One area of the brain that increases activity during sleep is the amygdala which is responsible for the fear response. It controls how you react to a perceived threat. When you regularly get enough sleep, the amygdala responds in a reasonable way. However, when you are sleep deprived it is more likely to overreact.
During sleep ghrelin, a "hunger hormone", decreases because you are using less energy than when you are awake. Ghrelin is a hormone that increases appetite. Leptin is a hormone that increases the feeling of being full after eating. Lack of sleep elevates ghrelin and suppresses leptin.
When you sleep, your body produces antibodies and immune cells that prevent sickness by destroying harmful germs. Sleep deprivation can ignite the immune response and make the body susceptible to germs, which makes sleep extra important when you are sick or stressed as the body needs even more immune cells.
If you are someone who struggles to fall asleep and stay asleep, you are not alone. In our fast-paced, constantly moving world it can be difficult to wind down. Especially if nighttime is your “you time” to binge Netflix, scroll Tik-Tok, or indulge in your favorite ice cream. But the reality is that staying up late is just borrowing happiness from tomorrow and setting you back on your overall wellness journey.
One hour before bedtime is best spent unplugged, in a cool, dim-lit room, decompressing from your day. Take control over your physical and mental wellbeing and practice getting good sleep. Sweet dreams.
Miranda Morris is a yoga instructor for Activ Life, a leading health and wellness company based in the Cayman Islands. If you enjoyed this article you may also like: 4 tips to calm the storm and Beat the burnout.