Historically, sleep was thought to be a passive state. However, sleep is now known to be a dynamic process, and our brains are active during sleep. Sleep affects our physical and mental health, and is essential for the normal functioning of all the systems of our body, including the immune system.
The effect of sleep on the immune system affects one’s ability to fight disease and endure sickness. Getting regular good sleep should count among the priorities for health conscious people. Sleep is a very important element of good health that is easy to take for granted in that it provides increased immunity against infections in general and is a boost to the immune system.
The importance of sleep to overall health and well-being is beginning to be understood more. Studies have shown that when people regularly get less than 6 or 7 hours of sleep each night, their risk for developing diseases begins to increase.
Lack of sleep has been associated with worsening of blood pressure and cholesterol, all risk factors for heart disease and stroke. Your heart will be healthier if you get between 7 and 9 hours of sleep each night.
Light exposure at nights reduces the level of melatonin, a hormone that both makes us sleepy and is thought to protect against cancer. Melatonin appears to suppress the growth of tumours. It is important to sleep in darkness help the body produce the melatonin it needs.
When the body is sleep-deficient, it goes into a state of stress. The body’s functions are put on high alert which causes an increase in blood pressure and the production of stress hormones. Higher blood pressure increases the risk for heart attacks and strokes and a stressed body and mind starts a cycle because stress hormones also make it harder to sleep.
The increase in stress hormones raises the level of inflammation in the body, also creating more risk for heart-related conditions, as well as cancer and diabetes. Inflammation is thought to one of the causes of the deterioration of the body as it ages.
Researchers have found that people who sleep less than seven hours per night are more likely to be overweight or obese. It is thought that the lack of sleep impacts the balance of hormones in the body that affect appetite. The hormones ghrelin and leptin, important for the regulation of appetite, have been found to be disrupted by lack of sleep.
Sleep impacts many of the chemicals in the body, including serotonin. People with a deficiency in serotonin are more likely to suffer from depression. Depression can be minimised or prevented by making sure you are getting between 7 and 9 hours each night.
Sleep is a time for regeneration of the body to repair damage caused by stress, ultraviolet rays and other harmful exposures. Your cells produce more protein while you are sleeping. These protein molecules form the building blocks for cells, allowing them to repair damage.
Quality of sleep is as important as the number of hours of sleep one has. Relaxation techniques can be carried out before bedtime to ensure that the body and mind are both relaxed enough for good quality sleep. Regular good quality of sleep for between 7 and 9 hours per night will mean we are less vulnerable to high blood pressure, cancer, heart attack, stoke and obesity. An improved immune system means that we should avoid illness such as colds and flu in the short term and have less chance of experiencing major health problems in the long term.