Here's why you need to make a good night's sleep your top priority
A sound night’s sleep makes us feel happy and rejuvenated. This has innumerable benefits on body, keeping us healthy. Without sleep, our body becomes more stressed, which can constrain our body’s ability to relax, restore, detoxify, heal, reduce weight, gain weight, fight any disease, etc. Unstable sleep cycles, especially when built up over time, alters the hormonal balance cortisol and melatonin in our body. These two hormones may influence the behaviour of the healthy cells in body. Here’s how each hormone works:
Cortisol helps to synchronise our immune system tasks, which includes the release of natural killer cells that help the body combat with various diseases like cancer. Cortisol levels typically increase at night, after hours of sleep, and reduce throughout the day. But stress increases cortisol levels abruptly which makes it harmful for the body.
Melatonin is processed by our brain to help us get better sleep and exhibits antioxidant properties that help avert damage to our body’s cells. Sleep deprivation and too much screen time at night leads to a decrease in the production of melatonin; making one’s immunity take a dip. A good sound sleep maintains sufficient melatonin levels in our body, while less sleep leads to reduced production of melatonin. It’s suggested that adults get seven to eight hours of undisturbed sleep every night.
Side-effects of less sleep
Sleeping for less hours or getting disturbed sleep during the night leads to a host of problems such as obesity, as the body is not able to go detox and go through a recovery phase. This causes a decrease in leptin levels (appetite-suppressing hormone) and an increase in the levels of grehlin (hunger-stimulating hormone). We feel hungry more often, and end up having excess food that causes fat accumulation in body.
Increased risk of diabetes due to hormonal imbalance (insulin too is a hormone) and an impaired glucose tolerance. As the body doesn’t go through a rest and recovery phase, the function of blood vessels may get hampered causing hypertension and an increased risk in cardiac issues and disease. Increased levels of inflammation and cortisol in our body as the body is not able to detox the same. Chronic sleep deprivation alters brain function and affects our ability to think and process.
Our body is not getting enough of rest, and thus our hormone levels are haywire. There is a very close relationship between the circadian rhythm and immunity too. Similar to our body’s sleep patterns, each and every function as well as immunity has a rhythm. Few chemical mediators released by our body cells go up during the day, whereas others go up during the night time. Chronic sleep deprivation will start decreasing the production of cytokines, as well as infection-fighting antibodies in our bodies. WBC’s react immediately to sleep loss, which damages the immune system’s response of our body towards any bacterial, fungal or microbial infection or disease.
As discussed above, sleep is really important for immunity. Getting plenty of sleep can help you in building a stronger immune system. Our immune system is designed to protect us from a cold and flu and other ailments but when immunity is compromised that’s when one gets sick. Studies indicate T cells go down if we are sleep deprived and inflammation of cytokines go up, which makes the body prone to colds, the flu and infections. So to be healthy it’s really important to improve the quality of your sleep. Let’s start with deep breathing to reduce the cortisol levels and get sound sleep.
(The writer is the Chief Nutrition Officer, Luke Coutinho Holistic Healing Systems. She is a
clinical nutritionist with a focus on healthy lifestyle choices.)
Photo credit: Bruce Mars on Unsplash