Natural Balance Foods

The Surprising Benefits of Sleep

The Surprising Benefits of Sleep

We all know and love our good friend sleep. We’ve all experienced the sense of satisfaction after a full night’s sleep as well as feelings of irritation when we are deprived of it with an early alarm call before work. We all know sleep is good for us at a surface level but why do we love it so much?

Sleep is an area with many unanswered questions remaining for researchers and scientists still to discover but we’ve taken a deep dive to uncover the following benefits.

Even though we’re resting, a hell of a lot is going on internally!

It allows us to think and act more clearly

A study from Berkeley found that our pre-frontal cortex shuts down when we’re suffering from a lack of sleep. The pre-frontal cortex is related to some of our most complex cognitive behaviours such as decision making and personality expression. So keep it fed with sleep!

It helps to reduce stress

Whether we’re aware of it or not, stress builds and builds throughout the day. Even small moments like getting irritated by somebody on your commute or a disagreement with your colleague can contribute. These trigger our ‘stress response’ which releases adrenaline and cortisol (a steroid hormone) which were previously used to fuel our ‘fight or flight’ response. As we don’t need to fight or escape danger in our day-to-day survival in the modern day, this energy remains unused. Sleep helps to quell and resolve this stress.

Sleep improves memory

Through numerous studies, a link has been built between memory and sufficient sleep.  Ever get that feeling of clarity on a decision you were pondering the night before? That’s because sleep helps us to process information. The REM state of sleep plays a role in the acquisition of learned material. In a study focussed on declarative memory (fact-based information and ‘what we know’) researchers documented a rise in REM sleep for individuals taking part in an intensive language course.

Another focus in these studies was procedural memory which is related to the process of remembering ‘how to’ do something (for example, learning an instrument, learning a new yoga technique). REM sleep has a significant role in this cycle too.

Sleep also heightens the performance of our neuronal connections which are used to tie together our memories - these begin to falter without sufficient sleep.

It helps you to gain control of your diet

Lack of sleep causes an unbalance among many of our hormones. A study by the University of Pittsburgh found an increase in the hormone ghrelin (which boosts feelings of hunger) and a decrease in another hormone called leptin (which tells us when we’re full) among people who were experiencing sleep deprivation. This seesaw effect gives us a warped perception on the state of our hunger which can lead to problems with overeating, under-eating and for our diet in general.

On the flipside there are some foods which can help you sleep, check some of them out here
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