We all know that sleep is important, but it is often one of the most overlooked areas of modern health.
Sleep helps to maintain our immune system. Our immune system upholds the integrity of many other parts of our bodies. An unhealthy immune system can lead to conditions like inflammation, joint pain, and illness.
If you’re not getting 8 hours a night, then you need to find out what’s preventing you from getting a good night’s rest. Those who are interested in good health and immunity should make sleep a priority.
The Difference Between Wakefulness and Sleep
Understanding the difference between wakefulness and sleep helps to illuminate the importance of each state of consciousness.
When we’re awake, we direct most of our energy towards sensory processing. Our brain spends most of its time perceiving, organizing, and evaluating the information that we receive through our senses.
When we sleep, the brain remains active. However, since we’re no longer dedicating so much energy to sensory input, the brain takes this time to engage in other activities.
What Happens When We’re Asleep?
Sleep is characterized by the loss of consciousness and reduced responses to external stimuli.1 In 1929, German psychiatrist Hans Berger recognized that there was a significant change in the brain’s electrical activity during the sleep phase.
This change in electrical activity allows the brain to focus on other functions.
Sleep has been shown to increase muscle growth by accelerating the process of repair. Sleep helps the body synthesize protein and release human growth hormone, two compounds required for healthy muscle tissue growth. As much as 75% of human growth hormone is released during sleep.2
During sleep, the brain cleans and refreshes itself. During sleeping hours, the brain eliminates toxic byproducts that accumulate during the day. These toxins are removed through a network known as the glymphatic system.3, 4
Sleep is important for maintaining the health of our musculoskeletal system. Studies have shown that people who sleep either too much or too little are more likely to develop musculoskeletal pain.5
Getting your nightly 8 hours of sleep is a prerequisite if you want to enjoy these health benefits.
Sleep & Human Adaptability
The human body is among the most adaptable systems on the planet. Humans are able to adapt to inhospitable environments, extreme conditions, unhealthy diets, and almost anything else that they’re exposed to.
During waking life, adaptations arise when we face challenges. These challenges could be simple, such as lifting increasingly heavier weights, or fairly extreme, such as being stranded in a harsh environment.
During sleep, the brain develops resilience and helps to produce adaptability in our behaviour. There is a complicated link between sleep and resilience. Current research says that people who get a healthy amount of sleep have a higher capacity to develop resilience to life’s stressors.6,7