How does sleep impact health?
How does sleep impact health?
Have you ever had a terrible night’s sleep and felt awful the next day? We all know how sleep can make us feel better – whether we want rid of a pesky headache or we’re worrying about an important decision. But sleep in fact plays a vital role in our health and wellbeing, helping our various systems and organs to function as they should.
Let’s take a look at the different ways sleep can impact our physical and mental health.
How is sleep good for physical health?
It’s well-documented that sleep acts as a sort of reset period during which our brains and bodies rejuvenate themselves. In essence, we need sleep as a time to recover from the day before, and prepare for the day ahead. So what happens if, for whatever reason, you are sleep deprived?
Sleep deficiency refers to an insufficient amount of high-quality sleep – so you can feel the effects even if you’re getting lots of poor quality sleep. This can lead to some obvious symptoms – fatigue, an inability to focus, falling asleep during the day – as well as some you might not be aware of. Consistently not getting enough sleep can put you at a higher risk of conditions such as obesity, diabetes, heart disease and strokes.
Can a lack of sleep cause a sore throat?
Not getting enough sleep can also affect the efficacy of your immune system. During a good night’s rest, certain parts of the immune system activate what you might call a ‘higher gear’, working harder to fight off pathogens within your body. It is believed that this helps to keep you healthy by using this burst of increased activity to take down infections before you start to show symptoms.
Therefore, if you miss out on this sleeping period, you could be at greater risk of showing symptoms for these infections and feeling ill – i.e. you might notice a sore throat infection. Of course, a sore throat can in turn keep you awake, so it’s a good idea to treat the pain with a spray such as Ultra Chloraseptic’s anaesthetic menthol throat spray. This works to dull the pain, helping you to get better quicker with less interrupted sleep.
However, an interesting fact is that this revving up in activity during sleep happens regardless of whether or not you’re actively ill. Because of this, it’s thought that sleep helps to improve your adaptive immunity. In the same way that sleep helps us process our memories of the day, sleep can also help the immune system strengthen its memory of the pathogens it encounters. This may result in an improved adaptive response the next time you come into contact with such pathogens. In effect, getting lots of good quality sleep can help to prevent a sore throat infection.
How does sleep affect your mental health?
Having to get up and go about your day as normal after a night of poor sleep is not fun, but few of us realise how much of an impact prolonged sleep deficiency can have on our mental health. Not sleeping well can lead to tiredness, lack of focus, low energy and irritability. All of these can affect your ability to get things done, whether you’re working, studying, carrying out household tasks or running errands. This in turn can lead to low self esteem and anxiety, which can then keep you up at night even more.
Sleep’s impact on your mental health can be compounded if you already have health conditions or if your sleep deficiency is causing problems with your physical health. Seeing a GP or pharmacist can help you to find ways to combat this. It can be really difficult to break out of that cycle, but it’s worth it. Getting to grips with good sleep hygiene habits can help to improve your physical and mental health and keep you better protected against minor illnesses and infections.
 Besedovsky, L., Lange, T., & Haack, M. (2019). The sleep-immune crosstalk in health and disease. Physiological Reviews, 99(3), 1325–1380. https://journals.physiology.org/doi/full/10.1152/physrev.00010.2018