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The impact of making sleep a top priority

Last Modified: July 31, 2023

Family Medicine


This post was written by Desiree Heim, NP, PPG – Sleep Medicine.

As you start to list your priorities, where does getting adequate sleep fall in that list? In today's society, most people's schedules are overbooked, and our sleep is easily sacrificed in the midst of our busy lives. For some of us, it's something we will eventually get to once all our other "to dos," deadlines or tasks are completed even if that means only getting two or three hours of sleep at night. 

Would our perspective on sleep change if we truly understood how important it is for our overall health? What if I told you that lack of adequate sleep can lead to a variety of health issues such as high blood pressure, depression, anxiety and obesity to just name a few? Sleep is critical to our health, because when we are asleep our body repairs tissues, strengthens the immune system and consolidates memories. When we are asleep, our body and mind rejuvenate and recover from daily activities.

Sleep and our hormones

During sleep, our bodies are repairing themselves and various hormones are released. For example, growth hormones released in our sleep assist in repairing muscles, cells and tissues. Insufficient sleep can disrupt the balance of hormones that regulate appetite and metabolism, leading to weight gain and increased blood sugar levels. This, in return, increases the risk of developing chronic conditions like obesity, diabetes and heart disease.

Sleep and the immune system

When we sleep, our bodies are given the opportunity to replenish our immune cells. Sleep deficiency weakens the immune system, making us more susceptible to infections and illnesses. The production of immune cells mostly takes place when a person is sleeping, so when adequate sleep is not achieved, the immune cell production is thrown out of whack. This increases the risk of becoming ill.

Processing emotions and memories

During NREM stages of sleep, the brain sorts through various memories from the previous day and will filter out important memories while eliminating other information. This process continues during REM sleep, along with the processing of emotional memories. The processing of memories during REM sleep can help a person cope with difficult experiences. Sleep deprivation affects a person’s cognitive functions such as attention, memory and problem-solving abilities. It also impairs a person’s ability to concentrate and make decisions, which can impact daily tasks and productivity.

In conclusion, adequate sleep is essential for overall health and well-being. Prioritizing good sleep habits can help improve cognitive function, maintain a healthy weight, strengthen the immune system, and promote emotional well-being.

If you have concerns about your ability to fall or stay asleep, talk to your primary care provider. They can help decide if a referral to a Sleep Medicine provider is necessary, or if you would benefit from a sleep study.


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