To understand why sleep is so important, think of the body as a factory that performs various vital functions. When we fall asleep, our body starts to:

  • Restore damaged cells
  • Strengthen the immune system
  • Recover from the day's activities
  • Consolidate memory

Understanding the sleep cycle

What happens if you don't get enough sleep?

If the body does not get an opportunity to sleep properly (going through the full REM and NREM cycles) we start the next day at a disadvantage, putting our health at risk. We compromise cognitive functions such as learning and memory; and we increase the risk of obesity, type-2 diabetes and hypertension, with negative impacts on heart health.

Two systems interact every day for sleep to happen properly: homeostasis, which is responsible for creating our body’s desire to sleep; and circadian rhythms, which organise our sleep time..

Sleep-wake homeostasis is a biochemical system that promotes the accumulation of sleep-inducing substances in the brain. This system works as a timer, generating homeostatic sleep; that is, it exerts pressure on the body to sleep after we have been awake for a certain amount of time. For this reason, the longer a person is awake, the stronger their desire to sleep becomes..

Circadian rhythms are our internal clock, responsible for regulating and coordinating the body's biological processes and alertness levels. This regulation makes it possible to control sleep times according to the light-dark cycle of day and night. In addition to the sleep-wake cycle, circadian rhythms are also responsible for regulating feeding patterns, body temperature, brain wave activity and hormone production during each 24-hour period..

Sleep and its impact on our health