Sleep is commonly taken for granted until you lose it. Don’t wait for it to change in order to use it to your advantage.
There’s a reason humans sleep a third of their life away. Sleep is vital for health. And with more than 70 million American’s suffering from a sleep disorder, our healthcare system needs all the help it can get.
Sleep disruptions can have significant short-term consequences, ranging from increased stress responses, heightened levels of pain, reduced overall quality of life, emotional instability and acquired mood disorders, and decreases in cognition, memory, and mental performance.
The long-term consequences can be even more damaging, causing high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol, cardiovascular disease, excessive weight gain, metabolic syndrome, increased blood sugar levels and Type II diabetes, as well as higher rates of colorectal cancer.
So getting a good night’s rest is no longer viewed as a portal into the next day, as it has far more of an influence on our daily behaviors and general health than we initially thought.
Sleep Today to Think Tomorrow
Sleep is essential for high-level cognitive processing and mental performance, which can carry over the following day. Cognitive performance and vigilant attention to tasks decline very quickly after 16 hours of continuous wakefulness, especially when performing high-risk procedures such as operating industrial equipment and performing surgery.
And the scary part about all of this is that those who suffer from disrupted sleep and continuous interruptions at night are often unaware of their altered cognitive performance and emotional instability.
Your Memories Depend on Your Time Spent In Bed
Sleep isn’t just good for the body; It’s also good for the brain. Research into memories and sleep has uncovered a significant relationship between the consolidation of memories and sleep quality. The belief is that during the day, the brain focuses on encoding memories, flipping it’s focus to the consolidation of those memories while asleep.
This process makes sense from an evolutionary perspective, as sleep is the perfect time to run through the previous day’s events and assess what memories need to stay and what needs to go.
The Brain Takes Out The Trash While Sleeping
Your brain uses up 20% of your body’s blood and oxygen levels, especially during bouts of higher-level physical and mental activity, which can peak at 50% of these respective processes. Sleeping allows the brain to use a mechanism to clear out the trash accumulated throughout the day.
Increased cerebral spinal fluid (CSF) flow within the brain has been documented and researched as a mechanism of increased brain metabolism and arterial flow, allowing self-maintenance and the regulation of various internal house-cleaning processes to occur while the brain sleeps.
The proposed mechanism is that the glymphatic system (immune system of the brain and support cells) does not have time to perform these internal cellular repair processes when sleep-deprived, causing a build-up of toxins and subsequent cognitive deficiencies.
Sleep Is Your Best Bet for Success
As you can see, sleep is essential for health and high-level cognitive processing. Without it, the brain slowly breaks down and turns on us, making it even more difficult to overcome our daily struggles and stressors.
Sleep does far more than recharging the batteries, as it plays a pivotal role in our physical, mental, and emotional well being.
If you are one of the many who suffers from poor sleep, it’s time to find answers to your questions. There are many tools in the healthcare toolbelt to help you find solutions to your health problems.
It all starts with a quick conversation and honest feedback from a qualified medical provider who understands the importance of sleep, the brain, and your health.