The Importance of Sleep for your Entire Body
It doesn't take a genius to know that sleep is important.
How well do perform on 4 hours of sleep? Probably not as well as you'd like to and it makes sense when you take into account how critical sleep is for your body and your brain.
Your brain without sleep
Rest or sleep is necessary for every animal species to recover from activity and several studies have found that sustained sleep loss may trigger a generalized inflammatory and stress response in the brain.
On a molecular level, scientists are still trying to determine the restorative process that takes place when we sleep, but it is clear that short-term sleep deprivation can lead to disruption in metabolism, immune function, and inflammatory and stress responses. One of the results of partial sleep loss is the increase in the early evening levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which normally decrease to minimum levels before bedtime.
Dangers of sleep deprivation
A study from 2000 shows that even moderate sleep deprivation produces impairments equivalent to those of alcohol intoxication. After 17-19 hours without sleep, the study subject's average performance was equivalent or worse than that of a blood alcohol concentration, or BAC, level of 0.05! Most states, including my own Washington state, has a DUI limit of 0.08% BAC for those over the age of 21. Skip a day of sleep and you could be legally incapable of driving!
Sleeping & eating
Our sleeping habits also directly affect our eating habits. Increased levels of evening cortisol are also likely to promote the development of insulin resistance, which is a risk factor for obesity and diabetes. Sleep loss is associated with an increase in appetite that is greater than the caloric demand of extended wakefulness. In other words, lack of sleep causes the release of hormones that affect our appetite and can cause you to eat more than you normally would given a good night's rest.
Recent studies have shown a clinically significant impairment of glucose tolerance, or prediabetic symptoms, in young, healthy subjects who were studied after 6 days of sleep restriction, or 4 hours in bed.
So yeah, sleep is Important
Clearly. Yet, it seems like the status quo is to stay up all night and work extended hours, study until 2am before an exam, or worse - zone out on television for hours. With science backing the data, it's important to understand that sleep is absolutely critical for your brain and body to function. Sleep deprivation is no joke! Take steps to set up for a good night's rest by getting to bed early and preparing yourself for the next day the night before.