While sleep may feel like a passive process, it actually sets off a flurry of beneficial biological activity. As we snooze, our brains clear out abnormal proteins, our pituitary glands release hormones that help the body grow and repair, and our immune systems go into defend-and-protect mode.
Research is finding that it also plays an essential role in heart health. Just this summer, Bonney notes, the American Heart Association added healthy sleep as one of the eight most important factors for improving and maintaining cardiovascular health.
Sleep is also intricately linked to immunity and the ability to stave off pathogens. “There have been so many studies that clearly document how optimization of sleep and sleep hygiene is really vital to keeping your immune system healthy,” Bonney explains.
All in all, decades of research tell us that trying to get away with too little (or too much!) sleep will be a barrier to longevity. And yet, Bonney sees people do it all the time. “I hear so many people say things like, ‘I’ll sleep when I’m dead,'” she says. “And the truth is, you will be dead sooner if you don’t sleep.”