One third of Canadians don’t get enough sleep on a regular basis. Even more of us have trouble getting to sleep or staying asleep through the night. For too long, sleep’s vital role in maintaining a healthy body and mind has been overlooked. Research shows sleep is essential for mental balance and physical strength and skipping your Zs can lead to significant health issues.

During the night, your body cycles through stages of sleep. Each cycle is about 90 minutes, so these stages happen five times on an average night. While you sleep, your body is redirecting blood flow, building brain pathways and releasing hormones to optimize physical and mental health. Here are the stages of sleep:

Stage 1: Light sleep somewhere between wakefulness and slumber. You start to lose your sense of reality and your muscles begin to relax and sometimes twitch.

Stage 2: This is known as average sleep – it’s not too deep, not too light. Your body temperature drops, along with your blood pressure and heart rate. Your brain waves slow down as well.

Stage 3: During slow wave sleep (also called non-REM sleep) your breathing becomes deep and rhythmic. Your blood pressure drops, your muscles relax, and you don’t move much. It can be difficult to wake someone up when they’re in this stage of the sleep cycle.

Stage 4: Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep. At this stage your body is asleep, but your brain is active. This is when you’re most likely to have vivid, imaginative dreams. Some scientists believe REM sleep is when we process experiences from the day.

If you move through this cycle multiple times a night, your body and mind reap huge benefits. Here are some of the positive effects of a good night’s sleep:

Repairs to muscle and tissue damage: During slow wave sleep your breathing slows, and your blood pressure drops, moving more blood to your muscles and tissues to flush out toxins and encourage regrowth. This is particularly useful after a tough workout.

Appetite control: Your body releases hormones that control your appetite and suppress your hunger.

Ability to build muscle: If you’re trying to build or tone your muscles, sleep is half the battle. While you slumber, your body releases growth hormone to encourage tissue and muscle growth and repair.

Fight diabetes: When you sleep, your body releases Insulin to help balance blood sugar and ward off Type 2 diabetes.

Builds new brain pathways: Your brain forms new connections that help you process and remember. Sleep is the time when memories are consolidated and stored.

Stabilizes mood: People who don’t get enough sleep tends to be more depressed and anxious. They experience more mood swings and feel less stable. Regular sleep helps restore balance in brain chemistry, so you feel better and clearer headed.

Healthier skin: A study found that good sleepers recovered better after ultraviolet light exposure and showed fewer signs of aging.

So, instead of staying awake to catch your favourite series, try jumping into bed and enjoying a solid night’s sleep instead. The results are worth snoring for.