Effects of Sleep on Your Health

Written By Elsie Velazquez Cert. Personal Trainer Prescription Fitness

Sleep health is something you probably do not give much thought to.  Did you know that sleep plays a very important role in your health and well-being throughout your life. Getting enough quality sleep at can help protect your mental health, physical health, quality of life, and safety.

The way you feel while you’re awake usually reflects what happens while you’re sleeping. During sleep, your body is working to support healthy brain function and maintain your physical health.  If you are not getting enough quality sleep, you will feel it throughout the day.

The damage from sleep deficiency can occur in an instant such as falling asleep behind the wheel, or it can harm you over time. Ongoing sleep deficiency can raise your risk for some chronic health problems. It also can affect how well you think, react, work, learn, and how you interact with others.

Effects on Brain Function and Emotional Well Being

Sleep helps your brain work properly. While you’re sleeping, your brain is preparing for the next day. It’s forming new pathways to help you learn and remember information.  A good night’s sleep improves learning whether you are learning math, how to play a sport, or how to drive a car.

Lack of sleep will cause you to have trouble making decisions, solving problems, controlling your emotions and behavior, and coping with change. Sleep deprivation has also been linked to depression, suicide, and risk-taking behavior. .

Effect on Physical Health

Sleep plays an important role in your physical health.  Sleep is involved in the healing and repair of your heart and blood vessels.  Chronic sleep deficiency is linked to an increased risk of heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and stroke.

Sleep deficiency also increases the risk of obesity. For example, one study of teenagers showed that with each hour of sleep lost, the odds of becoming obese went up. Sleep deficiency increases the risk of obesity in other age groups as well.  As mentioned above, lack of motivation from lack of sleep will impact your ability/desire to be active.

Sleep helps maintain a healthy balance of the hormones that make you feel hungry (ghrelin) or full (leptin). When you don’t get enough sleep, your level of ghrelin goes up and your level of leptin goes down. This makes you feel hungrier than when you’re well-rested. Overeating/overindulging is the final result.

Sleep also affects how your body reacts to insulin, the hormone that controls your blood glucose (sugar) level.  Not getting enough sleep leads to higher than normal blood sugar level and that may increase your risk for diabetes.

Your immune system relies on sleep to stay healthy. Ongoing sleep deficiency can change the manner in which your immune system responds. Simply put, if you’re sleep deficient, you may have trouble fighting off common infections and/or common cold.

Tips on How to Sleep Better

  1. Try to go to sleep and get up at the same time everyday
  2. Get as much natural sunlight as possible
  3. Move vigorously during the day—don’t sit for more than an hour
  4. Limit caffeine, nicotine, alcohol, and big meals at night
  5. Take time for relaxing activities before sleep
  6. Create a calm and restful sleep environment