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Why is sleep important for a healthy body, mind, and spirit

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Sleep is one of the most important aspects of life and health for the human body.  Unlike some animals who can hibernate all winter long, and other animals that can go without sleep for longer than 24 hours, the human body requires daily rest in order for the processes that maintain the organs of our body to function properly.

During sleep, the cells of the human body go through the process of eliminating all of the cellular debris/waste that has accumulated inside the cell during the day.  This process is apparent in the skin surface of the human face.  Anyone that has scars on their skin knows that after a good night’s sleep, scars usually appear less prominent than a night with only 4 hours of sleep, or sleep that is not ‘sound’, with wakefulness throughout the night; in this latter case, the scarring will be more visible on the skin’s surface the next day.  Just as the body feels tired and unrefreshed after a night of poor quality or too little sleep, the skin’s surface reflects the lack of proper cellular maintenance, with the more prominent visible scars as the best example.

If you can imagine how too little sleep impacts your skin, with cells being unable to finish cleaning out the cellular debris, you can then imagine how much more important it is for the human brain, heart, and other bodily organs to have the ample amount of time to take care of cellular processes when the human body is at rest.  When a person goes without sleep for a night, the brain continues to function in support of the tasks the person is performing/experiencing; some examples of these tasks might include: driving, listening to music, dancing, cooking, reading/studying, or writing.  If the person stays awake for 24 hours, then the person’s eyes have worked continuously for 24 hours.  The only breaks the eyes experience are the blinking, to remoisten the outer surface.  Likewise, the person’s brain is working for all 24 hours, receiving, processing, analyzing, and sending out complex signals.

The brain solidified memories during human sleep.  Therefore, if a person stays awake for 24 hours straight, it is much more difficult for him/her to solidify information they acquired during that 24 hours into long-term memory, because they have “robbed” their brain of the precious time it typically uses to solidify the information learned throughout that day.

Similarly, muscles usually repair themselves during a time of rest.  Without proper sleep, the muscles of the body cannot fully repair themselves from the activities performed that day.  When a person exercises, walks, or has movement, it is gradually tearing away at the muscles of the body.  The body requires an intake of protein for the repair of the muscles after walking or physical exercise.  Additionally, the body requires rest, so that the muscles can clean out the cellular debris, eliminate wastes (degraded proteins), and rebuild the muscle.

Just as the mind and body require sleep for proper function and cellular repair, the spirit requires rest as well.  One of the most challenging things for the human spirit is negativity.  When a person has poor sleep or too little sleep, the body feels exhausted, the mind feels additional pressure, and the spirit in turn feels negative.  Someone may argue that after staying awake and working for 24 hours straight, writing a grant (for example), they feel exhilarated and “on a high”, from accomplishing so much and not “needing” to sleep.  This might be the case for one or two days, but after several days of not enough sleep, this “high” will eventually fade and the negativity that is left behind from the body and mind’s total and complete tiredness and exhaustion will quickly bring the spirit to an unbelievably low negative mood.  Thus, the spirit needs rest in order to stay positive, particularly because the spirit has things that try to make it negative all throughout the day.  If the night-time exhaustion also adds to the negativity, the spirit might never feel positive, in which case, the spirit’s negativity will diminish the health of the mind and body to an even greater extent.

In order to maintain as optimal of health as possible, for your mind, body, and spirit, it is necessary that you try to optimize your sleep quality, sleeping environment, and the number of hours you sleep each night.

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