The human body requires sleep to function, but what exactly is sleep? According to the Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School, sleep is “a state that is characterized by changes in brainwave activity, breathing, heart rate, body temperature, and other physiological functions.” Sleep is your body’s chance to recuperate for the day ahead, and getting enough sleep can boost your mental performance in a number of ways.
Not sleeping enough can make you more prone to suffering from anxiety, depression, and mood swings. A good night’s sleep increases the level of neurotransmitters produced by the brain like acetylcholine, dopamine, and gamma-aminobutyric acid, all of which play a role in happiness and an overall sense of well-being.
Lack of sleep can increase your chances of developing brain fog, which clouds your judgment and decision-making skills. During periods of sleep, brain cells shrink, which helps flush harmful toxins from the brain and body to promote clearer thinking.
Increased Learning Capacity
Your ability to learn new skills suffers if you aren’t getting enough sleep. A good night’s rest improves your brain’s fast-sigma and delta brainwave activity, which can bolster your ability to learn new tasks.
Getting enough sleep has also been shown to strengthen connections among brain cells, which helps transfer information from one brain region to another to assist in short-term and long-term memory retention. If you don’t sleep enough, you run the risk of being more forgetful.
Lower Risk of Illness and Injury
During periods of sleep the brain works to repair itself from daily stress. A good night’s sleep can lower your risk of developing certain illnesses and injury. Lack of sleep can also increase your chances of obesity, high blood pressure, cancer, heart attack, falls, and motor vehicle accidents.
There are several do’s and don’ts when it comes to sleeping well:
- Do stick to a bedtime schedule.
- Don’t expose yourself to bright blue lights (ex. TV) late in the evenings.
- Don’t eat heavy meals before sleeping.
- Do perform a bedtime ritual, such as taking a warm bubble bath, before hitting the sack.
With the pressures of modern life and the demands of your daily schedule, it can be difficult to get a good night’s rest, but it’s important to get enough sleep on a regular basis, as it recharges not just your body, but your mind as well.