A doctor once asked me: “Do you know how to heal the body with sleep? Or let me rephrase it for you. What happens to the body when you sleep? It heals!”

That’s right, there’s a connection between sleep and healing. Sleep has a connection with everything we do, think, eat, etc. Think of your body as a gadget that cannot work at its best, if it’s not fully charged. And sleep is the required charge.

Whenever you fell ill, you were advised to get more sleep to recover faster. Although it is still a fascinating mystery for researchers, there are a lot of interesting facts about what happens to our bodies while sleeping. To understand better how the body heals while sleeping, let’s take a closer look.

How does the body heal itself during a night of sleep?

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Sleeping is a crucial process. When you don’t get enough sleep, your health is at high risk. The many symptoms of lack of sleep include: depression, high blood pressure, seizures, migraines, indigestion and loss of concentration, and so on. 

In comparison, when you take good sleep, you feel energized. You can be more productive. It is also a belief that sleep promotes the removal of waste products from the brain cells. This is something that does not seem to occur effectively, when you are awake and your brain is continuously storing new information. It seems that this process of brain waste cleansing only occurs during the sleeping process.

All this happens because the body undergoes a series of changes that enables nourishing rest, which is essential for your overall health. Sleep allows your brain and body to slow down and commence the process of recovery, thus encouraging better mental and physical health.

Although sleep seems like a submissive process, it’s not. Sleep is an active state which is as complex as wakefulness. Your brain doesn’t stop working during the sleep process. Rather, it is engaged in different kinds of activities than in an awakened state such as initiating the sleep cycle. The sleep cycle gears up into a variety of important processes towards its: rejuvenation, repair, restoring stamina, and strength.

What is the sleep cycle and what does your body do while asleep?

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To understand better, how sleep helps our body to heal, we need to understand the whole sleep cycle. Many of us don’t know that our sleep is divided into stages. Typically, there are four stages of sleep, which runs in a continuous loop each night. Each cycle consists of 90 minutes. Generally, each cycle moves through at least stages: wake, light sleep (NREM), deep sleep, REM and, repeat.

How to heal the body with sleep:

Stage 1:

During the first stage which is also called awake or light sleep, your body starts experiencing the need for sleep and starts falling asleep. Although many people aren’t aware of sleeping in this stage. They think they are only resting. This means,  that while you are lying with closed eyes and are typically still aware of your surroundings, you are in a sleeping stage. It lasts about 5 to 10 minutes. Physically your heart rate and breathing slow down and brain activity is reduced to 50 percent.

Stage 2:

This stage is also known as intermediate or Non-Rapid Eye Movement sleep (NREM). Some experts further divide it into N1 and N2 stages. In this stage, your body starts to drift towards deep sleep. Your body further goes into a more relaxed state. It is more difficult to wake up from. It lasts about 5 to 15 minutes. Body temperature starts to drop. Breathing and heart rate slow down.

Brain activities during this stage continue to reduce. Brain waves start to spread known as Sleep Spindles. The purpose of these sleep spindles is to take you to deep sleep. The more you have them, the less likely you are going to awake at night. Memory consolidation starts, and as a result, you experience flashes of memory in the form of dreams, which usually don’t make any sense.

Stage 3:

The third stage or deep sleep is a phase that is often referred to as slow-wave or delta-wave sleep. It consists of 45 to 90 minutes and decreases with every cycle. It is also considered as NREM stage. In this stage, you become completely unaware of your surroundings, and much harder to wake up. Your brain starts to convert your daily experiences into long-term memory. Your brain sends signals to different body parts, resulting in initiating relaxing and repairing processes.

This is the most vital stage, but it also can be difficult to achieve. As the body ages, this cycle starts to reduce from 50 percent to 2 percent gradually. This is the reason you feel less rejuvenated at a later age, even if you are sleeping the same amount of time.

People who don’t achieve this stage look more tired and less healthy.

Stage 4:

Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep is the phase where your body enters after reversing back through the other three stages. It consists of 10 to 60 minutes and increases with each sleep cycle. Dreams in REM are often formed by the stories we remember in the morning. As compared to the fleeting and flashing images in
stage 1.

Your brain starts to release chemicals that paralyze the body and allow the muscles to relax, and there can be a rapid increase in brain activities due to dreaming. If you see a person with fluttering eyes and still body movements, they’re most likely to be in REM sleep.

Physical conditions include: less thermoregulation, increased breathing, brain activity, and heart rate.

How much sleep do you need to allow your body to heal?

According to the National Sleep Foundation (NSF) studies, the following chart shows the recommended sleep times. It is broken down into nine age groups regardless of gender.

Age group

Range

Hours of Sleep Recommended

New-born

0-3 months

14-17

Infant

4-11 months

12-15

Toddler

1-2 years

11-14

Pre-Schooler

3-5 years

10-13

School-age

6-13 years

9-11

Teen

14-17 years

8-10

Young Adult

18-25 years

7-9

Adult

26-64 years

7-9

Older Adult

65 and more years

7-8

For each group, the recommended range of night sleep represents the healthy individual. In some cases, studies show that women tend to sleep about 11 minutes more than men. Sleeping for an hour or less than the general recommended range may be acceptable according to the person’s circumstances.

Healing effects of sleep on different parts of the body:

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Sleep is vital to our mental and physical health. As we’ve discussed, several processes start while we sleep which helps lead our body towards the journey of healing. Sleep works like the body’s own healing power. Let’s check out the amazing ways our body heals and protect itself during sleep.

The benefits of sleep for Heart Health

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Lack of sleep can negatively affect your heart. Studies have shown that having little sleep affects the body’s sympathetic nervous system. This causes the overproduction of stress hormones.

When the body is overstuffed with adrenaline, the burden goes to the heart, pushing it to work harder. Your heart will be at high risk of heart attacks, high cholesterol, stroke, coronary disease, congestive heart failure, if you don’t get sufficient sleep.

Sleep helps you lower your heart rate, hence protecting your heart from significant dangers.

The benefits of Sleep for Bones and Skeletal System Health

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People who spend most of their waking hours on their feet, place so much stress their spines. Studies show sleeping for recommended times is necessary for protecting and strengthening bones. It also helps the connecting tendons, ligaments, and cartilage to maintain their health. Having good sleep helps to safeguard the tissues inside your bones known as bone marrow. Eating healthy and calcium-rich foods is not enough for your bones to stay strong. A sufficient amount of sleep is also essential for healthy bone marrow.

The benefits of sleep for a Glowing Face and Healthy Skin:

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Having a good night’s sleep can make you feel fresh and energized. This is a common fact that after a proper sleep your face looks bright and glowing. During deep sleep, our muscles relax, blood flow improves, and promotes the collagen rebuilding process. Human growth hormones and melatonin, which are released while sleeping, create new cells that help heal our skin inside out, and beyond the epidermis. (See also how Vitamin C, in conjunction with sleep, aids glowing face and healthy skin) this will be a link

Sleep also helps in preventing dark circles, puffy eyes, and premature wrinkles.

The Benefits of Sleep for a Healthy Immune System:

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People who sleep less are prone to get sick more often. Research shows that people who are behind on their rest, are more likely to catch cold and have allergy attacks. Individuals who have a decent amount of sleep, respond better to medication. According to a study published in the journal ‘sleep’ claimed, that people produced more antibodies in response to vaccines, when they slept well.

The Benefits of Sleep for Healthy Weight:

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Sleep deprivation disrupts the balance between the appetite-controlling hormones i.e., ghrelin, and leptin. Those who do not take proper sleep, eat more than those who sleep well at night.

The body’s level of leptin decreases while you are sleep-deprived, and this makes it harder to keep your weight in check. So, make sure to sleep well, to maintain a healthy weight, and to control unwanted cravings.

The Benefits of Sleep for a Healthy Liver:

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The liver’s job is to process all blood that leaves the stomach and intestine. The function of the liver is to process blood and break it down, so that nutrients are created, that are distributed throughout the body. Another function of the liver is it helps metabolise toxins, medicines or drugs, so that they can be transmitted more easily, or expelled more easily.

The liver is the most essential organ of the body that performs about 500 or more vital functions. Being sleep-deprived can throw it off the rhythm leaving it less effective in carrying out functions like detoxifying, breaking down adrenaline, managing blood sugar levels, and producing cholesterol. Hence, it is essential to take proper rest to make it function more efficiently.

The Benefits of Sleep for the Renewal of Brain cells:

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While you sleep, your body reproduces cells that form myelin. It is the essential tissue that protects the brain and spinal cord from neurological diseases.

Our brain never sleeps, but sleeping helps it in clearing out all the toxins that are built up during waking hours and getting ready for the next day.

The Benefits of Sleep for Promoting Healing After Surgery and Injury:

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As we’ve discussed how rest is important, you’ve probably heard of how it is essential for injury recovery, or after surgery. Patients are told to take as much rest as possible. People usually fail to understand the importance of sleep as part of the healing process.

It doesn’t matter if you’re dealing with pain, fracture, muscle strain, tendon damage, or any kind of injury, sleep is the key for your body to get back in top shape.

The most important reason how sleep helps the healing process, is related to blood flow. As you drift towards deep sleep, your muscles start to relax and your blood flow increases. This leads to a better flow of oxygen and nutrients for muscle repair and cell regeneration.

Moreover, a flood of the hormone prolactin is released while you sleep. This hormone helps in regulating inflammation. Therefore, if not taking adequate sleep, you’re more likely to have more inflammation in your body.

How to Get a Good Night’s Sleep:

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Exhausted, tossing, and turning, feeling irritated? Sound familiar?
Sleep problems are common, but there are some easy ways to improve the quality of sleep. Having a good night’s sleep also improves the quality of life as well as helping to heal the body.

There are many problems people experience regarding sleep, such as:
– Trouble falling asleep after trying for too long
– Waking in the middle of sleep hours and cannot go back to sleep.
– Physical or behavioural interference such as restless legs, sleepwalking,
  breathing problems, snoring, etc.
– Sleeping too much or too long
– Feeling too much sleepiness or having naps during the day
– Feeling drained or having excessive fatigue

Sometimes these sleep problems may occur due to health issues or conditions such as: a deficiency of certain vitamins and minerals. Studies have shown that people with a good intake of Vitamin C have better sleep than those who don’t.

Also taking supplements with Magnesium can help in getting better sleep. Magnesium is said to improve sleep quality and help in reducing restless legs syndrome. The way magnesium works is that it helps regulate neurotransmitters which are like an electrical highway throughout the body, via the nervous system. These process help regulate the hormone melatonin, which acts as a guide in the sleep-awake cycles. So, the mineral, magnesium, can be a very effective sleep aid.

Breathing exercises can also aid in having a good night’s sleep. Since breathing promotes and helps to heal the body with oxygen. It also helps in regulating your nervous system. Slow and deep breathing helps in lowering blood pressure and lower stress levels. It also helps in boosting the production of melatonin, the hormone which works as an agent to help you drift to sleep more quickly.

Helping You on Your Journey to Heal Your Body With Better Sleep

So, you can see that getting deep and restorative sleep is essential for our bodies. To get good sleep, you can try several tips, tricks, and medications. You should keep in mind that some medication might help you fall asleep, but not a guarantee that they won’t damage you in long term. Medication should only be used as a short -term strategy.

You have now seen how sleep can aid: brain health, skeletal system health, face and skin health (beauty), heart health, immune system health, healthy weight, liver health, and so many other things.

So, if you’re having any difficulty in sleeping, try consulting with your physician before taking any over-the-counter medication. From personal experience I have found that using a natural remedy such as magnesium, is a perfect pre-bedtime mineral to take.

Leaving you with the quote:

“Sleep is one part of the whole rhythm of life. Whenever researchers go in and disrupt that rhythm, the biology becomes less efficient. And the inefficiency basically leads to disease”.
by Michael Twery, PHD, Director of the National Center on sleep disorders research.

If you are not sleeping well, what action are you going to take to change that habit today?

Rest well!

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