Has it ever struck you as odd that we spend nearly a third of our lives laying down in an unconscious state? Even though scientists can’t quite pin down the exact explanation for why we need to sleep, we do know that it is extremely necessary. Good sleep correlates to lower stress, more happiness, and better overall health. In this article we’ll dig into what exactly the body does while it slumbers.
As you sleep at night you pass through a series of five stages. The cycle goes through the stages and then has its own process for repeating them. In order to wake up feeling well rested and energized, it’s important that these cycles complete themselves.
You may have noticed that as you drift asleep your thoughts start to become dream-like. In this stage your brain waves are slowing down even though you’re mostly still awake. Your brain produces Alpha waves, which correlate to a state of restfulness for your body. In fact, if you’re in the habit of meditation or extended prayer, you may occasionally go through this during the day. Depending on how your brain works, some people tend to also experience Alpha waves when they’re awake and daydreaming.
In this phase it’s not unusual to get a sudden falling sensation and then jerk awake. This sensation is called a hypnotic hallucination, and it has to do with your muscles relaxing and then rapidly contracting. As you experience Alpha waves turning into Theta waves, you might also hallucinate about other random things going on, like for example, hearing your phone buzz.
This is a very light form of sleep, and it ends as your Alpha waves become the slower Theta waves.
The next stage of sleep is characterized by the body temperature dropping and the heart rate slowing down. This last for about 20 minutes. The brain begins to produce “sleep spindles”, which are quick spurts of rhythmic brain waves. The body prepares to enter into deep sleep.
In this stage Delta waves appear. Delta waves are the slowest waves, which correspond to the deepest kind of sleep. Beginning in stage three, if you get woken up you’ll feel disoriented for a moment until your body becomes fully alert again.
The Delta waves get even stronger in this period. For that reason this stage is sometimes referred to as Delta Sleep. Rapid eye movement (REM) sleep begins to happen, and you may start to have dreams. Generally, it is in this stage that sleepwalking and bed-wetting occur.
You experience the majority of your dreams in stage five. This stage is also known as REM sleep because your eyes dart back and forth below your eyelids. In addition, your respiration rate increases and so does your overall brain activity. While the brain and body systems activate, your muscles relax. Actually, they become paralyzed.
This paralyzation is your body’s way of protecting you from harming yourself as you dream. Otherwise, you might accidentally act out your dreams and do things that you don’t want to do. This phenomenon also explains why in your dreams you might feel like you can’t talk or can’t run or move – you literally can’t. Your heart and your organs continue to function as they need to, but you’re denied access to your voluntary muscles.
This dreaming happens as a result of increased brain activity. While the reason for why we dream is not known, we know that you absolutely need to spend time in this dreaming state in order to wake up rested and invigorated.
Importance of the cycle
Now that we’ve explained the progression of the different stages we should explain that the way you pass through them isn’t totally linear. Once you get to stage four you actually repeat stage three and then stage two before beginning REM. Generally, you experience your first pass through stage five sleep 90 minutes after falling asleep. Then you return to stage two. As the night progresses, each one of your REM cycles gets longer. Typically we go through this whole cycle four times in a night.
Do you wake up in the mornings feeling rejuvenated and ready for the day? If not, a number of factors could play a part in robbing you of your good night’s sleep. Having a well-structured, comfortable mattress might be one of them. If this is your case, please know that we would more than happy to help you! As a mattress store in Las Vegas, our mission is to enable you to enjoy better health and satisfaction with your life by sleeping well! Come in today to find a new mattress to give you better sleep every night!