A woman sleeping peacefully

By Chloe Henry

Everybody knows that sleep is important. But why exactly is that? Sleep allows our bodies to physically rest, but there are also functions occurring in our bodies as we sleep that keep us healthy performing at our best. When we don’t get enough sleep, these functions cannot completely occur, which can lead to problems down the road. Here is how lack of sleep affects the various body functions and systems:

  1. Circulatory System

When you enter REM (deep) sleep, your heart rate slows down, and your heart does not have to work as hard to function properly. If you don’t get enough REM sleep, meaning you frequently wake up during the night, it can lead to increases in heart rate and blood pressure, which can lead to a higher risk of heart disease, obesity, and strokes. 

  1. Metabolism

Our circadian rhythms help prepare our bodies to digest food throughout the day and while we sleep. If we don’t get enough quality sleep time, our hormones can get out of rhythm, our insulin response decreases, and we can have an increase in cravings for junk food. All of these factors contribute to becoming overweight and/or obese. 

  1. Respiratory System

Sleeping allows us to breathe less deeply and less often, which gives our respiratory system time to recover from the day. Especially for those who suffer from asthma and COPD, having irregular sleep can disturb that recovery time and worsen symptoms. 

  1. Immune System

When we sleep, a specific type of immune cell is able to work more efficiently, which is why not sleeping well for a certain period of time makes you more susceptible to infections and illnesses.

  1. Nervous System

Sleeping is when our short-term memory converts to long-term, so not getting enough sleep can lead to memory loss and even just problems focusing. A common symptom is “brain fog”, or feeling like you can’t think or visualize anything clearly.