Everyone knows how important sleeping is. When you’ve gone too long without sleep, it becomes obvious just how much we need to sleep as humans. You can go to bed feeling completely and utterly exhausted, and wake up feeling refreshed and ready to take on the next day — it’s a wondrous phenomenon.
So although we all experience the effects that sleeping has on the body on a day to day basis, many people are left wondering — what happens to your body when you sleep?
Your Brain is More Awake Than Ever While Your Body is Asleep
Even though you are physically asleep and your body is taking a rest, the brain is very much active throughout the night. Your brain uses the time when you’re asleep to sift and sort through information that you learned the day before and retain what’s important so that you can recall that information later.
This is done as the brain rewires its trillions of neurons and remaps its nerve endings to better accommodate the new information that you learned that day. This is done by forming new connections in the brain while breaking old ones.
This is why sleep and memory are so related to one another, and is the exact reason why staying up all night to prepare for an exam or a big presentation at work isn’t the best way to get ready. You’re more likely to recall something if you’ve gotten adequate sleep to allow your brain to form that new connection than if you were to stay up all night practicing.
What Happens to Your Body When You Sleep?
You may have been surprised to hear about how active the brain remains while you’re asleep. Your body is different though, right? It spends the night resting like you do while your brain remains active. Wrong, your body actually does quite a few things as well while you’re fast asleep.
While you are asleep, your body alters the production levels of the hormones that control your hunger — ghrelin, and leptin. Without getting too technical, these are the hormones that increase and decrease your appetite, respectively.
Since you are using far less energy while you are asleep compared to when you’re awake, your body produces much less ghrelin than when you’re awake, which is why you don’t feel the need to eat throughout the night like you would during the same period of time during the day.
While your skin works on repairing itself to stay healthy and get ready for the next day. Your liver works to remove the harmful toxins from your body while, simultaneously, the surface of your skin undergoes mitosis to produce more skin cells.
This process helps to keep your skin healthy consistently on a day to day basis and is the reason why humans typically shed and regenerate 50 million skin cells every single day! Your body does a lot of the heavy lifting for keeping your skin healthy while you are sleeping.
Immune System Gets a Boost
When you’re sleeping, your body produces cytokines, antibodies, and immune cells. In conjunction with one another, these molecules work to protect your body from harmful germs that can make you sick.
This is a big part of why your doctor might often tell you to be sure you get some sleep if you’re sick. Your body needs time asleep to form all these new germ-fighting molecules which will help to fight off the sickness and get you back in tip-top shape much faster.
What Happens if You Don’t Get Enough Sleep?
Since sleep is so vital to the health of both your body and mind, there are, of course, negative side effects that come to fruition if you don’t get enough sleep. Here are just some of the things can happen if you are regularly suffered from sleep deprivation:
- You can get sick as your body produces less illness-fighting cells.
- You might have trouble thinking the next day and coming up with the best decisions.
- You become forgetful as your brain doesn’t have enough time to store new information.
- You can gain weight as there’s less time that your body is producing less ghrelin.
- The health and vibrance of your skin can diminish.
Don’t read through this list and think that if tonight you only get 6 hours of sleep instead of the 8 hours you normally get that you’re going to get sick or not be able to remember things tomorrow. A night here and a night there that you get a bit less sleep than normal isn’t going to have any dire consequences on you the next day.
It becomes an issue when you consistently sleep less than you should. Maybe you just got a new job where you’re working 18 hours a day and can only fit in 4 hours of sleep after you factor in eating, your commute, and the family time you can manage. Something like that will take a toll on your body, and you could start experiencing some, if not all, of the negative side effects listed above of not getting enough sleep regularly.
Sleep is Essential For Your Mind and Your Body
While you knew that sleep is essential for your health already, now you understand the various things going on in your mind and body while you sleep to help keep you in the healthiest condition possible. This isn’t even an exhaustive list of everything that goes on in your body while you’re asleep, just a few of the main ones.
Sleep is more important than many people realize, and it’s one of the most important things that your body needs to stay healthy, fight off illness, and keep your mind sharp. Don’t skimp on sleep to catch more of your favorite show or play your favorite game; your body will thank you!