Your body—and especially your brain—need sleep. While you sleep, your stress system is turned down, your cortisol levels drop, your immune system gets stronger, your brain gets smarter and cleaner, and your body releases hormones like growth hormone and testosterone. Growth hormone is a protein hormone that has a major role in growth and in protein, fat and carbohydrate metabolism.
Have you ever met someone who thinks he or she functions just fine after 4 to 6 hours of shut-eye?
What you do not realize is that the recommended amount of sleep that is best for you and your brain is a minimum of 8 hours and if you are not getting this much sleep, you are likely being kept alert and aroused by adrenalin, one of your stress hormones, rather than being awake because you are truly rested and energized.
These stress hormones alone can wreak havoc on your body (including your skin which ages faster), but even more so, the lack of sleep negatively affects your brain, which needs the fuel and extra time to be asleep for the cells, called neurons and glia, to fully regenerate, clean up house, and thrive.
During sleep your brain is processing complex information, creating and consolidating your memories, learning and remembering how to accomplish tasks, and perhaps more importantly, it is clearing out toxins, the very same toxins that are being shown to be implicated in such neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease.
According to the 2013 International Bedroom Poll, half the population in the United States sleeps less than seven hours a night during the week, so chances are, you fall into the category of sleep deprivation, putting yourself at risk for health problems.
How do you know whether you are functioning from pure energy or the energy that comes from your stress hormones? Here's a little assessment to help you decode your body's signals, and whether it's asking for more sleep.