How Does Sleep Heal You?

It’s not just your body that benefits from good sleep—sleep heals the brain, too. (Have you ever crashed out on the sofa after a really stressful day? There’s a reason.)

What’s Happening When We’re Ready to Sleep

Adenosine is one of the brain’s waste products. A high level signals the need to sleep. Adenosine starts to rise mid-afternoon, which is why many of us reach for energizing drinks or snacks at this time. 

As adenosine rises, other processes are set in motion to encourage sleep, such as the lowering of blood pressure and the release of hormones that slow breathing and relax muscles. 

Sleep Heals the Body and Brain

When you sleep, the metabolic waste produced by the brain and body are flushed, so you wake up replenished with energy for the new day.

In addition to maintenance tasks like cell turnover, the body can focus more strongly on healing wounds and infection when the demands of wakeful hours are removed. Some of the ways the body heals during sleep include repairing damaged muscles, stabilizing hormone levels and producing more white blood cells. 

How Healing Processes are Affected by Sleep

A recent English research study showed that insufficient sleep affects gene expression changes: After just one week of less sleep, genes linked to chronic inflammation, cellular stress and various factors that cause cardiovascular disease were “turned up,” while others were turned down, including the genes that help maintain stable metabolism and optimal immune responses.