It is widely known that sleep is vital to health and well-being, and yet remains one of the great undiscovered realms of scientific research. Sleep’s universal importance is demonstrated by the fact that even the most simple multicellular organisms sleep. But what is sleep? More importantly, what is restorative sleep?
The very definition of sleep, “a diminished response to the outside world” means that while we slumber, we are at our most vulnerable to threats from the outside world. Normal, evolutionary, survival pressures would dictate that less sleep would be preferential. Surprisingly, we don’t see a biological trend to reduce or eliminate sleep. Rather, sleep continues to be of paramount importance and people who have a reduced need for sleep are extremely rare (despite what some people may say). In fact, the opposite is true regardless of injury or disease. If an organism is to survive, it sleeps.
But you don’t need to be a scientist to know that sleep is important. All of us know that we don’t physically, mentally, or emotionally feel our best when don’t have enough sleep.
Why is restorative sleep so important?
Sleep is the body’s natural and built-in power system to help us restore, repair, and regenerate. Sometimes we tell ourselves that quality is better than quantity but, in my humble opinion, this is only true of chocolate. When it comes to sleep, you need both quality and quantity.
Actually, optimal sleep requires that you:
- Are able to fall asleep
- Can stay asleep
- Get enough sleep (for 98% of people, this means 7.5 to 9 hours of sleep per night)
- Enter deep sleep (this involves both adequate slow-wave sleep and REM sleep)
- Have all the nutritional building blocks for nighttime repair and restoration
Why is all of that important? Because, to be truly restorative, we need all of the pieces of the sleep puzzle to come together. When that doesn’t happen, it can have widespread effects.
Restorative sleep and circadian rhythm
Restorative sleep is a cornerstone of our overall health, and is directly correlated to our circadian rhythm. The circadian rhythm manages our sleep function, and is also linked to immunity, brain health, blood sugar control, metabolism, liver function, and optimal digestion. As we know, sleep is especially important to brain function. That’s because it helps the brain to rebuild its energy stores, change and adapt (what scientists call neural plasticity), support memory and learning, and clear waste and from both the brain and the body.
But when we don’t have all of the pieces to the restorative sleep puzzle as shown above… what happens? We don’t sleep well, and our circadian rhythm is affected. When our circadian rhythm is out of sync, all of the systems it supports are affected.
That means immunity, brain function, mood, metabolism — all of that. Are you seeing the connection between restorative sleep and your health yet?
11 benefits of restorative sleep
We’ve already covered how restorative sleep benefits your circadian rhythm. What other awesome things can you expect from great sleep? Here are 11 other benefits that show why sleep is so much more than just rest.
1) Regulation of hormones, including growth hormone.
Your body modulates hormones while you’re asleep, raising some and lowering others. For example, levels of growth hormone go up and cortisol, which is tied to stress, goes down. Lack of sleep can mess with levels of the hormones that control hunger hormones, like leptin and ghrelin. Insomnia might be related to mishaps in hormone control.
2) Mental sharpness, memory, and ability to learn.
REM sleep is recovery for your brain. It helps your brain clear out information you don’t need and consolidate or store information that you will need in the future. People are more easily to solve puzzles, remember facts, and complete tasks better after they get REM sleep. Those deprived of REM in particular — compared with other sleep stages — lose this advantage. According to one study, losing just one night of sleep can lead to an increase in beta-amyloid, a protein in the brain associated with impaired brain function and Alzheimer’s disease.
3) Support healthy metabolism and weight.
Research shows that too little sleep increases cravings, feelings of hunger, and results in an increase in caloric intake. Less than six hours of sleep creates an imbalance in our hunger hormones. It gets worse. Some studies show a link between poor sleep and insulin resistance, increasing the risk of diabetes.
The worst news? Even when we restrict our calories, we don’t repeat the full benefits of our efforts because our fat cells still become more sensitive to insulin when we lose sleep. No wonder that shorter sleep durations are linked to higher body mass index.
4) Microbiome synchronization.
Intestinal bacteria fluctuate daily in terms of their abundance and functions. Sleep, diet, food timing, light exposure, and stimulants can all potentially affect intestinal rhythms of metabolism. New science shows that gut microbiota and circadian rhythm mutually influence each other, with potential impact on our metabolism and weight. So, basically, restorative sleep matters when it comes to gut health, metabolism, and weight.
5) Skin health.
Beauty sleep is a real thing! It keeps helps reduce inflammation and keep the body’s stress hormone, cortisol, in check. This protects collagen in the skin, which reduces wrinkle formation and keeps skin looking healthy and young. Clinical studies show that long-term sleep deprivation can prematurely age us. Getting enough sleep does more than reduce dark circles under our eyes, it helps to keep our skin clear and vibrant.
6) Heart health.
Deep, non-REM sleep lowers your pulse and blood pressure, which gives your heart and blood vessels a chance to rest and recover. Too little sleep increases inflammation and puts stress on your body. This can lead to or worsen heart disease. People with sleep disorders are at increased risk for heart disease, heart failure, irregular heartbeat, heart attack, high blood pressure, stroke, diabetes, and obesity. Studies showed that people who slept for six hours or less each night and have problems staying asleep had a 48% higher risk of developing or dying from heart disease.
7) Better mood, coping skills, and less anxiety.
It probably won’t surprise you that when you sleep less, you feel more emotional, irritable, and less able to cope with life’s daily challenges. Sleep regulation and anxiety are both modulated by monoamine and acetylcholine neurotransmitters, so if one of these is affected, so is the other. It’s also important to note that chronic insomnia is associated with increased risk for depression, anxiety, and other mood disorders.
8) Improved immunity.
If you think skipping a bit of sleep makes you more likely to catch a cold, it’s not your imagination. A recent study found those who slept five hours or less were 4.5 times more likely to catch a cold than those who regularly got seven hours of shut-eye. In fact, many studies have shown a link between sleep and immune function.
Sleep deprivation has been shown to decrease our natural immune response, like suppressing natural killer cell activity and increasing some pro-inflammatory cytokines. Sleep after vaccinations, both flu and hepatitis, has been shown to significantly correlate with an increase in the production of protective antibodies. Even 10 days after the flu shot, those with less sleep still had half the antibody levels of those with better sleep.
9) Toxin removal.
Sleep is our body’s big chance to perform vital “housekeeping” operations. All cells need to take out the proverbial trash each day. If we don’t get adequate sleep, then just like at our home, garbage starts to pile up on a cellular level. One of the most important areas in need of a good sweeping is our brain. Our brain is literally washed clean at night as we rest to clear out toxins, like the beta-amyloid protein frequently found in Alzheimer’s patients’ brains.
10) Executive function.
Executive function is higher-order decision-making. It is especially important when we have to override decisions that might normally be made automatically. Sleep loss has a profound impact on the prefrontal cortex. This affects brain metabolism and our ability to make decisions. Studies show this area of the brain is particularly vulnerable to sleep loss or sleep deprivation, which can majorly impact executive function.
11) Longer life.
Studies show that if we sleep enough, we live longer. In fact, research finds that a lack of sleep can more than double the risk of death from cardiovascular disease. In case you want to extend your life and improve overall health, the National Sleep Foundation recommends seven to nine hours of sleep for most adults between 18 and 64 years of age.
How to get more restorative sleep
After all of that, we hope the importance of restorative sleep is clearer than ever. Yes, we need seven to nine hours (on average) of sleep a night. However, we also need sleep that restores all of our bodies’ processes. From our brain to the nails on our toes, sleep has a major impact on our health and happiness. When our sleep isn’t restorative, you’ll notice. You might feel lethargic throughout the day, moody, or even anxious. If low-quality sleep continues, we may notice more severe effects, from decreased immunity and metabolism to diabetes and heart disease.
If you’re struggling to fall asleep, stay asleep, or you don’t feel rested after sleep, RestoreZ may be able to help. Our line of circadian rhythm sleep aids don’t force your body to sleep. Instead, they support your body’s natural signals, gently helping you drift off sleep (and stay asleep). RestoreZ understands the science behind the circadian rhythm and the power of restorative sleep. To support better sleep and overall health, we’ve created a line of natural sleep supplements designed to support your individual sleep challenges.
Ready to resynchronize your body with its internal clock so you get more restful and restorative sleep? Determine which RestoreZ restorative sleep aids are right for you.
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