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We all eventually succumb to nature’s call when it comes to rest and sleep; the major difference being the sleep duration which differs from individual to individual. The big question however, is why do we sleep?  Although research findings are not completely certain why we sleep, it is obvious that its functions and benefits in everyday life cannot be over emphasised. “Sleep is an inactive period where the cells are doing a lot of repairing. Your hormones act differently when you’re asleep, and your immune system as well,” says Lisa Shives, MD, DABSM, founder of Northshore Sleep Medicine in Chicago.  The effects of lack of sleep are things a lot of us have experienced at one point of our lives or the other; fatigue, unnecessary irritation and edginess as well as a generally terrible feeling on the inside. Even the Bible stated in Genesis 2:2-3,that on the seventh day, God rested. Adequate sleep is a key part of a healthy lifestyle. Studies upon studies, involving both humans and animals suggest that the quantity and quality of sleep has a profound effect on immune function, metabolism, heart function, weight, learning, memory and other bodily and mental functions. Some of these benefits are further explained below: Memory Boost: Your mind, hormones and immune system act totally different when you are asleep. During sleep you can boost and fortify your memory as well as certain skills which you probably learnt while you were conscious. This act is described by science as “Consolidation”. If you ever find yourself struggling to grasp something be it mental or physical (practice), sleep is recommended. Consolidation during sleep helps one to perform better hence, the need for adequate and quality sleep. Longevity (increases life span): There are no two ways when it comes to sleep; if you have quality sleep, “not too much, not too little”, you are certain of a longer and better life. Numerous studies show that insufficient sleep can expose one to some medical conditions like Cardiovascular diseases and obesity. As such, sleep is needful for “restoration” as it increases an individual’s life span. Tissues repair, protein synthesis and muscle growth also occur mostly during sleep. Increases Creativity: Studies have shown that sleep helps to consolidate memories which can facilitate insightful behaviours and flexible reasoning which ultimately increases creativity. Sleep increases creativity and helps the mind to unveil connections amongst disjointed ideas. The human brain increases by a huge percentage in its level of creativity after sleep. 040213-health-autism-autistic-infant-warning-signs-concerned-parent-mother-baby Reduces Stress: Rest and sleep are essential to good health. Sleep helps reduce stress levels which in turns helps the body to control blood pressure. During sleep the body is at rest letting the mind correlate information and ideas properly. Doctors have linked the effect of sleep to cholesterol level which is related to heart diseases. Reduces Depression: Sleep adds more to our general health than just consolidation. Sleep helps to reduce depression which is mostly caused by anxiety. Sleep creates a good balance between your mind (mental) and body (physical). One is stable emotionally with the help of a good sleep which puts depression off. People should never take sleep for granted or see the importance of sleep as luxury. While sleeping is not a total assurance for good health it definitely helps to perform a lot of function towards that.  

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This article was first published on 3rd February 2014 and updated on February 5th, 2014 at 5:07 am

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