Sleep provides rest, repair, and rejuvenation to your entire body—this includes your organs.
Insomnia and sleep deprivation interferes with the health of your kidneys by slowing or blocking the removal of toxins and excess fluids.
Your risk of high blood pressure and heart disease increases when you don’t get adequate sleep.
When disrupted by lack of sleep, the pancreas is unable to produce and release insulin properly.
Your immune system is weakened by a lack of sleep, which leaves you more vulnerable to illness and injury.
Research suggests that sleep provides the time needed to remove toxins that build up in your brain during the day.
Sleep provides the rest, repair, and rejuvenation required to keep your brain and body healthy, but that’s not all. The quality and quantity of your sleep directly influences how all organ systems function throughout your body. You might already be thinking “Boring.” And granted, talking about how sleep ramps up energy, erases bags under your eyes, and helps you shed weight might sound a lot more interesting than talking about your kidneys and pancreas, but your organs are like the plumbing in your house. It’s not much fun to spend money on leaky pipes, but when your toilet doesn’t flush and your sink leaks all over the floor, you get them fixed. It’s like that with your organs. Sleep is an essential player in the care and keeping of healthy organs.
In Organs, Part 1, we discussed how nutritional choices influence your organ systems and how eating a Mediterranean diet seems to be best for your overall health and wellness. This week, we’ll focus on sleep and its influence on your organs, and in Part 3, you’ll learn how exercise (mental and physical) influences your organs. Let’s take a closer look at how sleep affects some of your major organs, and how the health of your organs can impact your sleep. Let’s take a closer look at your major organs and how sleep affects each.
When you sleep your body is busy replacing one-tenth or more of your gut lining each night. Lack of sleep can lead to a leaky gut and a whole host of other digestive-tract related issues including poor digestion, ulcers, colitis, and more. When you sleep, your body produces a specific hormone called growth hormone, created by the pituitary gland in your brain. During childhood, growth hormone is im- portant to the development and growth of your organs. As an adult, we still need growth hormone to repair numerous tissues in just about every organ in your body to replace damaged cells.
Insomnia and sleep deprivation interferes with the health of your kidneys by slowing or blocking the removal of toxins and excess fluids. This can slow down and obstruct hormone balance that affects sleep. A build-up of impurities in your blood and kidneys can also interfere with restful sleep. When you sleep, your body shifts into a mode of healing that can’t happen if you are sleep deprived, and this can lead to an increased risk of kidney disease.
Your risk of high blood pressure and heart disease increases when you don’t get the sleep you need. Over time, getting less than seven hours of sleep a night increases your risk of heart disease, heart attack, and stroke. During adequate sleep, your blood pressure goes down, but when you cut your rest short, your blood pressure stays higher for longer. This higher pressure puts undue strain on your heart. Lack of sleep is also associated with a higher likelihood of diabetes, which can damage blood vessels and leads to a higher risk of heart disease. Poor sleep is also linked to behaviors such as over- eating and lack of exercise, which hurts heart health.
Sleep deprivation leaves you more vulnerable to illnesses because your immune system won’t be able to operate at full steaAThe cells of your pancreas don’t get the rest and repair necessary when you cut your sleep quota short. Your pancreas is responsible for producing digestive enzymes and hormones including the proper amounts of insulin so that your body can control blood sugar. When dis- rupted by lack of sleep, the pancreas is unable to produce and release insulin properly, which can lead to a higher risk of insulin resistance. This resistance is linked to higher rates of metabolic disease and diabetes.
You might not think of your immune system as an organ, but it is made up of organs that control the creation and operation of cells. These immune cells defend your body against disease and help your body to repair when infected or injured. Your immune system includes your skin and all mucous membranes, which is your body’s protective shield and largest organ. Sleep deprivation leaves you more vulnerable to illnesses because your immune system must operate with depleted and damaged cells. Adequate sleep is necessary to repair and replace damaged immune cells accumulated during the normal course of daily living. Our bodies are constantly exposed to pathogens in the environment. Our immune systems destroy harmful bacteria and pathogens that we encounter, but it takes a toll. Aptly called the body’s defense system, our immune systems take a daily beating, and these soldier cells require recovery time. That recovery is provided during the hours we sleep. If you cut sleep short, these soldiers go into the next day’s fight depleted and unable to keep up with toxins and disease.
You know how you feel after a sleepless night. Your brain is foggy, and everything seems harder to do.
That brain fog is a sign that you didn’t get the downtime required to repair and replenish. Lack of sleep deprives your brain from maintaining the neural pathways necessary for the creation of new memories and learning. Research also suggests that sleep provides the time needed to remove toxins that build up in your brain during the day.
The Bottom Line
While it’s easy to see that sleep affects your organs, the answer “get more sleep,” is easier said than done. Thankfully, there is good research that indicates that you can do a lot to improve the time you do have available to you to sleep. Hopefully, this article will be a good reminder of the importance of night- ly rest.