11 Aug 2019

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Did you know that sleep is just as important to our health as diet and exercise? While the importance of sleep seems to be taken lightly, it’s well known within the medical community that sleep is a critical determinant of both physical health and mental well-being.

Why is Sleep Important?

While most think of sleep as a time of rest, it is actually a restorative process our body undergoes to ensure that all its organs continue to function properly. During the five stages of sleep, the body works to recover from the physical and cognitive stressors of that day. On a cellular level, the body begins to repair itself in a miraculous process that mends the injuries of daily life. Sleep also plays an integral role in healing and regulating the body’s immune system. Overall, sleep is a vital function and without the proper amount of it, we suffer from weight gain, chronic diseases, reduced sex drive, poor cognitive function, mood swings, and memory loss. 


Benefits of sleep as compared to diet

Maintaining the proper amount of quality sleep results in many of the same benefits as a healthy diet. Here are two benefits of sleep that we also see from a healthy diet: 


  • Improves cognitive processes and memory: We all know that a proper diet improves mental clarity, but did you know that one of the most active parts of the body during sleep is the brain? During slow-wave sleep, our brain experiences pronounced changes in electrical activity – which represents trillions of nerve cells rewiring themselves. This rewiring is what allows the brain to process and retain all the new information and memories that we obtain throughout the day.
  • Boosts moods and allows for the healthy regulation of emotions: While a proper diet helps maintain a balanced mood, when it comes to emotions, sleep reigns supreme. Sleep allows the brain to cope with emotional stressors and regulate mood. Meanwhile, insufficient sleep stimulates the amygdala – the area of the brain connected to depression and anxiety. Overall, adequate sleep provides us with mental strength and clarity and allows us to handle with stress in a healthy manner. 


Benefits of sleep as compared to exercise

What do we find when we compare the benefits of sleep to exercise? Not so surprisingly, we see very similar benefits, especially when looking at weight gain and disease prevention.

  • Helps maintain a healthy weight: While we sleep, our body produces the hormones that regulate hunger and metabolism. Sleep affects the production of the growth hormone – the protein that regulates the body’s proportions of fat and muscle. Also, sleep deprivation causes a decrease in leptin levels, which causes the body to crave carbohydrates. Finally, insufficient sleep causes the release of the stress hormone cortisol, which can cause overeating and stimulate hunger.

  • Combats diseases: Receiving a proper night’s sleep can reduce the risk of developing a chronic disease and lessen the severity of pre-existing diseases. Sleep directly affects the body’s production of cytokine – a hormone that allows the body to fight infection and inflammation. Without a proper night’s rest, our body faces a high risk of developing lifelong, chronic diseases. Sleep deprivation is associated with the development of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity, and depression. 

Even though sleep is a major building block of a healthy and happy life, we often overlook its importance. Sleep plays an integral role in our mental and physical well-being and if we don’t receive enough of it we can suffer from weight gain, mental fog, mood swings, chronic diseases like depression, heart disease, and diabetes. After examining the benefits and importance of sleep, it becomes clear that sleep is just as important as diet and exercise – if not more important. 


Unfortunately, roughly 68% of Americans – about 164 million people – still struggle with sleep every week. If you are struggling to fall asleep and stay asleep at night, try some of these natural remedies to help you receive a full night’s rest. 

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