February 7, 2024
6 mins read

Why do humans need sleep?

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Sleepy man holding his pillow

Why does the human body need sleep?

Sleep is essential for the body, without enough deep sleep our bodies and minds can’t properly function. Lack of sleep can impair our ability to think clearly during the day, resulting in poor focus, reduced cognition, delayed reactions, and mood swings.

Lack of sleep also enhances the chance of risks like :

  • Symptoms of depression
  • High blood pressure
  • Migraines
  • Seizures

In the pursuit of career success, individuals often overlook the significance of sleep, which is essential for overall well-being. Maintaining a healthy life does not only influence your health positively but also your productivity. The stressful feeling at work is prone to disappear, and the focus on improvement and productivity will come after it.

Physical Health Benefits of Sleep

Sleep is not just crucial for mental well-being, it's also an essential component of an active individual's recovery process. When well-rested, the body recovers from injuries and intense workouts more efficiently. During sleep, muscle fibers rebuild and repair themselves, and essential proteins are absorbed to support this process.

Sleep provides a much-needed rest for the heart as well. While we sleep, our heart rate slows down, giving it a chance to rest and recuperate from the demands of the day. This vital period contributes to cardiovascular health and overall well-being.

Is sleep a basic human need?

Sleeping is a basic human need, like drinking water or eating and breathing. Human sleep-wake cycles have changed a lot compared to hundreds of years ago.

People in the 1800s used to break their sleep into two blocks. They used to go to bed close before dusk and used to wake up in the middle of the night, for praying, chopping wood, and many other activities.

Sleep cycles changed a lot throughout the years, and studies have shown that the way we sleep today is completely healthy and right. They say that the average person needs 6-8 hours of sleep a day to live longer, as it may vary between people. Some may need 10 hours others 6 hours, but the important part here is to be asleep the whole time without interfering with your sleep.

What happens if we don't sleep?

Woman covering her ears with pillow

Lack of sleep for a day may not lead to serious side effects, but surely it will catch up to us if our night rest is continually neglected. The most common short-term symptoms include :

  • Memory and communication - inability to remember important information and can even forget certain words while trying to express yourself.
  • Diminished decision-making and coordination - Missing out sleep can lead to poor decision-making, whether at work or at other places. What is crucial to highlight here is that coordination may also worsen, which means that driving becomes a threat not only for ourselves but also for all the other drivers.
  • Weakened immune system - As already mentioned, a good night’s rest is crucial for strengthening your body and immune system, with the lack of sleep, also comes tons of illnesses. As a result, we're more prone to catching colds and other illnesses than ever before.

How does screen time affect sleep?

Electronic devices interfere with sleep by suppressing melatonin production and reducing the quality of sleep. Melatonin is a hormone that promotes sleepiness, and blue light emitted from electronic devices suppresses its production. Additionally, electronic devices can reduce the amount of time spent in slow-wave and rapid-eye-movement (REM) sleep, two stages of the sleep cycle that are vital for cognitive functioning.

Blue light exposure is an advantage during the day because melatonin spikes can make us feel more alert and refreshed., but it should be avoided during the night.

Hormonal Balance and Sleep

Your body’s recovery functions are at their high when sleeping, that is exactly why having a sufficient amount of sleep is crucial not only for physique recovery but also for hormonal balance.

Hormones are the body’s chemical messengers. They travel through the blood to tissues and organs. They are responsible for maintaining the bodily functions, including:

  • Muscle and tissue repair
  • Cardiovascular functions
  • Hunger and appetite
  • Circadian rhythm and your sleep-wake-cycle
  • Body Temperature
  • Sexual Function

Immune System Support from Sleep

Image of Citruses and ginger

While sleeping the body produces cytokines,  which are bodies of proteins that fight infections and inflammations. Certain antibodies and immune cells are produced as well. Combined, these molecules prevent sicknesses by destroying harmful germs.

That’s why it is essential when we are tired, sick, or stressed to have a good portion of sleep so that the body has time to produce more immune cells and proteins.

Sleep and Emotional Well-Being

During sleep, there is heightened brain activity in regions that govern emotions, fostering healthy brain function and emotional stability.

One example of how sleep can help regulate emotion occurs in the amygdala. This part of the brain, located in the temporal lobe, is in charge of the fear response. It’s what controls the reaction when we face a perceived threat, like a stressful situation.

When we get enough sleep, the amygdala can respond more adaptively. But if we are sleep-deprived, the amygdala is more likely to overreact.

Sleep and Weight maintenance

Feet standing on a weight scale

There are hormones like ghrelin, which increases appetite, and leptin,  which increases the feeling of being full after eating. They are being regulated by sleep and are also heavily affected if there is a lack of sleep.

While in deep sleep ghrelin decreases, because your body is using less energy than when you are awake.

On the contrary, lack of sleep elevates ghrelin and suppresses leptin, which may lead to increased hunger, leading to more calorie consumption.

Final Words

The most important body and brain functions are influenced by the need for sleep in every human being. On the question, of why humans need sleep, it is important to note that without the proper amount of sleep, we may face tons of consequences that may negatively affect our lifestyle and well-being.

In order, to be well rested you will also have to ensure that you develop some healthy sleep habits, to get the most out of your sleep.

If you want to learn more about how to get the most out of your sleep we recommend you take a look at some of these articles that we have written:

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