Is Sleep Really The Best Medicine? Here's Why Your Body Literally *Needs* A Good Night's Rest
When you live in a world full of superfood smoothies and boutique fitness classes, it's easy to forget that there are always going to be a few really basic tenants of taking care of yourself that trump all the rest. For instance, the results of a new study suggest that sleep really is the best medicine when you aren't feeling well, which probably isn't all that surprising, right? It just goes to show that keeping things simple can go a really long way when it comes to staying healthy.
The new study comes from researchers in Germany, who were able to show that sleep can improve the ability for your body’s immune cells (which help to fight any infections that might make you sick) to "attach to their targets" (aka kill bad germs, bacteria, etc.), according to the study's press release. While the study itself, which has been published in the Journal of Experimental Medicine, is a bit complicated to understand, here's the gist of how it was done: The researchers recruited a group of 10 healthy, young adult participants and subjected them to two sleep experiments. In one experiment, all 10 of the participants were told to sleep as they normally would, and in the second experiment, which took place a couple weeks later, the same 10 participants had to pull all-nighters. In order to track how the participants' bodies responded to all of this, the researchers took multiple blood samples throughout both experiments (which, according to the study, they were able to do without disturbing the participants' sleep).
Again, the study's results are super dense, so all you really need to know is, after analyzing the participants' blood samples, the researchers were able to demonstrate a significantly "beneficial effect of sleep" on the participants' bodies' immune cells, per the study's press release. In other words, a good night of sleep actually might be the best medicine for your body, y'all.
So what is it about sleep that makes it so good for the body? Well, according to Carolyn Dean, M.D., N.D., a sleep, nutrition, and diet expert and author of the book The Magnesium Miracle, a good night's rest allows your body, in the simplest terms, to clear out all the bad stuff. "During quality sleep, the body clears waste from the brain," she tells Elite Daily. "With respect to immune system support, during sleep, your body makes more white blood cells that can attack viruses and bacteria that can hamper the healing process."
Expanding on that point, Dr. Chirag Shah, an emergency medicine physician and co-founder of the medical clinic Accesa Health, tells Elite Daily that sleep benefits the immune system by "improving the development of protective molecules." He also points out that previous research has shown this very clearly: For example, one study, published in the medical journal JAMA Internal Medicine, showed that people who sleep less than seven hours per night are, on average, more likely to develop the common cold compared to those who clock in at least eight hours of sleep per night.
Aside from the physical health benefits, sleep can definitely affect your mental health as well. "Sleep allows for the process of something called 'autophagy' in the brain," Dr. Dora Wolfe, Psy.D., HSPP, CEO and clinical director of Wolfe Behavioral Health, tells Elite Daily, "or, more basically, a cellular cleanup that protects the brain from psychiatric and neurodegenerative disorders."
The bottom line is, everyone needs at least seven to nine hours of sleep each night, says Bill Fish, sleep science coach and founder of Tuck.com. "If we aren’t getting enough sleep, our body rebels to a certain extent. We feel groggy, sluggish, short-tempered, and sometimes even worse," he tells Elite Daily.
His advice? Make sleep a priority. After all, your well-being clearly depends on it.