Some people really love sleeping. They look forward to bedtime all day. Some people find it really hard to fall asleep. But it seems strange that we need to lie in bed for 8 hours every day! So why do we sleep? Sleep is very good for us in lots of different ways!
How does sleep help our immune system?
Sleep is very important for our immune system. Chemicals called cytokines which help our body fight off infection. When we sleep, we produce more cytokines. This helps us stay healthy.
Sleep seems to help our immune system remember pathogens. This is important for helping our body fight off infections. It’s also important for vaccines. Vaccines work by teaching our body to remember pathogens. Then if the pathogens get inside our body again, our immune system can fight them. some scientific studies have found that when people don’t sleep after getting vaccines, the vaccine doesn’t work as well.
How does sleep help our heart?
Some research suggests that sleep is important for our heart. People who get enough sleep are at a lower risk of heart disease. This might be because sleep reduces inflammation. Inflammation happens when our immune system fights off possible pathogens. This is important, but sometimes the inflammation can damage our bodies. This is what sleep prevents. Melatonin, a hormone which helps us sleep, also seems to reduce inflammation.
How does sleep change our brain?
Sleep is also important for our brains. During sleep, waste and toxins are cleared from our brains. When we sleep, our brain also turns short term memories into long term memories. It strengthens connections between cells called neurons in our brains which help us access our memories.
Sleep affects our emotions. The amygdala in our brain is involved in noticing threats. When we don’t get enough sleep, it becomes more sensitive. This means we feel stressed and angry. Getting more sleep helps our mood and makes us feel happier.
How can we get enough sleep?
Scientists are discovering lots more about the effects of sleep. Lots of research shows how important sleep is. Children and teenagers need about 10 hours of sleep per night and adults need about 8. Children need more because they are learning more quickly. Some people find it hard to sleep. When this happens a lot, it’s called insomnia.
If you struggle sleeping, don’t worry! Lots of people find it hard sometimes.
Sometimes it helps to have a routine before going to bed. This tells our brain when it’s time to sleep. It also helps to avoid caffeine (such as coffee) before bed because caffeine stops our brains producing melatonin.
Some scientific studies have found that even just lying quietly in bed can have some of the same effects as sleeping. If you sometimes find it hard to sleep, you can try some of these ideas. You might find it makes you happier and healthier!