Sleep: Working Hard While Hardly Working
Sleep: Working Hard While Hardly Working
Sleep is one of the first things to fall to the wayside when we are busy. It also happens to be the most important thing to make sure you can continue filling your waking hours efficiently and safely. The myth that some people can run on less than 7 hours of sleep has been debunked and the list of benefits for getting 7 to 9 hours of sleep is continuing to grow with further research. From hormones to memory to heart health, prioritizing that time every night can be one of the most important things you do in a day.
We’ve all heard the standard rule of getting 8 hours of sleep a night. While that is a generalized statement, some people do need more sleep, some less, we all need somewhere between 7 and 9 hours every night as adults. On the surface, stealing an hour or two from your sleep schedule to put in some extra work seems harmless, but the effects that habit has on your health are monumental. The most obvious effects are on your central nervous system. Difficulty remembering things, mood swings, and decreased coordination are all a result of sleep deprivation. This can also affect decision making and creativity (Watson, Cheerney). When you aren’t getting enough sleep, your mind and therefore your body slow down, making whatever time you saved burning the candle on both ends worthless.
The other effects sleep deprivation has on your body are far more important, but less obvious in the short term. When we sleep, our hearts heal and repair themselves which helps keep them strong. When we deprive our bodies of that time, we put ourselves at greater risk for heart attacks, strokes and other heart diseases (Watson, Cheerney). Dr. Mercola raises the point that it isn’t just the length of sleep you are getting, but also the quality of sleep that will help regulate your blood pressure and general heart health. A study showed that women who had mild sleep disturbance were “significantly more likely to have high blood pressure than those who fell asleep quickly and soundly” (Mercola). Long, quality sleep also helps your endocrine system produce hormones. For example, “for testosterone production you need at least 3 hours of uninterrupted sleep” (Watson, Cheenrey). If you have trouble sleeping or are regularly sleep deprived those “hours of uninterrupted sleep” will be harder to come by, setting off a domino effect as your body struggles to regulate hormone production.
On top of all this, a night of missed sleep greatly impacts your immune system and puts you at greater risk for developing Alzheimer’s. While we sleep, our bodies produce cytokines, which is a general term for a whole slew of infection-fighting substances that keep us healthy. When we get enough sleep and go through all the sleep cycles, our bodies will continue producing those cytokines to help protect us from any infections or viruses we run into throughout our day. This is one of the reasons why you will find yourself sleeping more when you are sick, but you can help yourself avoid those intense sick days by getting enough sleep in the first place.
Along with producing cytokines, your brain is working while you sleep to get rid of something called beta-amyloid. The National Institutes of Health describe beta-amyloid as:
“A metabolic waste product that’s found in the fluid between brain cells (neurons). A build-up of beta amyloid is linked to impaired brain function and Alzheimer’s disease. In Alzheimer’s disease, beta-amyloid clumps together to form amyloid plaques, which hinder communication between neurons.”
During sleep, our bodies are working overtime to clean up our brains. But that cleansing occurs in stages 3 and 4 of sleep, so if someone isn’t getting enough full sleep cycles throughout the night, that necessary cleansing won’t happen.
Mental health. Hormones. Heart health. Protecting your immune system. Neurological cleansing. Your body is not simply resting when you sleep. It is going through all of the necessary stages of repair and protection to make sure that your hours upright are healthy. If you struggle to get through a night without waking up or taking forever to fall asleep, check out the end of this article for a list of ways to improve your quality of sleep everyday. If you apply some of these tips and still find yourself struggling to sleep restfully, consider getting a sleep study done to help nail down the problem. Sleep is not simply something that is a luxury for times when life slows down. It should be a priority every day.
Cherney, K. Watson, S. (2019, April 19). 11 Effects of Sleep Deprivation on Your Body. Retrieved from
Mercola, J. (2018, November 10). The Science of Sleep and Sleep Deprivation. Retrieved from
National Institutes of Health. (2018, April 24). Sleep deprivation increases Azheimer’s protein. Retrieved