I’m quite sure that at one point or another you have wondered what happens as soon as you close your eyes to sleep. According to the daily mail,”we spend about one-third of our lives asleep”; therefore sleep is said to be very important as it is the time the body undergoes repairs and detoxification. Poor sleep patterns has also been linked to poor health. A short life expectancy has also been linked to people who sleep for less than 6 hours a night. So sleep has a large effect on our mental and physical well being. Read on to find out more!
Here are some of the things that actually go on while you’re zoning out.
1. Your heart rate and breathing slows.
That “can’t…move…another…muscle” feeling comes from the fact that all sorts of normal physiological processes slow way down at bedtime, like how many breaths you take per minute and how quickly your heart beats. Even your muscles and organs chill out. “The intestines quiet down in the nighttime, and the liver goes from trying to detoxify during wakefulness to trying to build and synthesize when you’re sleeping,” There’s also less adrenaline pumping through your veins, since you won’t be needing your fight-or-flight response between the sheets.
2. You aren’t sleeping deeply most of the time.
Not all sleep was created equal: When you first drift off, you get only very light sleep, then progress deeper and deeper into dreamland. The sleep cycle starts in what’s called non–rapid eye movement or NREM stage 1 (the kind of sleep you might nab if you were the type to doze off during your college lectures; you know who you are). Then you move into a deeper NREM 2 and then to the deepest, NREM 3, also called slow-wave sleep. Finally, you land in rapid eye movement, or REM, sleep, the wild part of the ride when most of our dreams occur. The whole shebang usually takes somewhere between 90 and 120 minutes, so on a typical night you’ll cycle through four or five times, waking up for just a sec (even if you don’t realize you’re awake) after REM sleep before starting over in stage 1.
3. Your Blood Pressure Slumps
Total-body relaxation results in something called a “nocturnal dipping” of your blood pressure, prevention.com says.I f you’re otherwise fit, your blood pressure can drop by about 5 to 7 points with a good night’s sleep. Therefore, it is important to keep your BP in a healthy range all the time. Prevention.com recommends these 13 ways to lower blood pressure naturally.
4. Your Body Temperature Drops
In the evening, body temperature, along with levels of wakeful hormones such as adrenaline, start to drop. Some sweating may occur, as the body is immobile and tries to combat losing heat.Body temperature continues to fall throughout the night. By about 5am it has dropped to about one degree centigrade below the temperature it was in the evening.At the same time, our metabolic rate drops too. This is the time of day when you would feel most tired, as the low temperature coincides with adrenaline at its lowest level.Low body temperatures increase your likelihood of sleeping deeply and so give the body chance to rest and rebuild. As body temperature starts to rise, it remains more difficult to stay in a deep sleep.
5. Hypnic Jerks
It may feel like you’re falling or it may feel like you’ve been jolted awake, but hypnic jerks (sometimes called hypnagogic jerks) are a natural and common part of falling asleep. This phenomenon causes your limbs to jerk, perhaps because your body is preparing for the changes that take place during sleep, or perhaps because your body misinterprets the signs of impending sleep as falling–and thus jerks you in a misguided effort to stay upright. Scientists don’t agree on what exactly causes hypnic jerks, but they’re typically harmless.
6. You’re paralyzed
Speaking of REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep: During this phase, you literally cannot move a muscle. Only the ones that control your eyes (hence the name rapid eye movement sleep) and your breathing are not paralyzed. Muscle paralysis is the body’s way of preventing you from kicking in the World Cup–winning goal, serving a knuckle sandwich to that intruder who turns out to be your unsuspecting and undeserving spouse beside you, or otherwise acting out your weirdest dreams. The paralysis is (obviously) temporary, but it can last up to about 20 minutes. Your once-slow-and-steady breathing and heart rate will also become a little less regular and a little more erratic during REM sleep.
7. You pump out growth hormones
Human growth hormone, or hgH, helps muscles, bone and other tissues regenerate. The helpful hormone is released during sleep, especially its deepest stages, and is thought to be prompted by low blood glucose levels present during sleep, among other factors. So, there is some science behind the concept of beauty sleep!
8. You might walk, talk, or even drive.
There’s no good reason for these so-called parasomnias, or weird behaviors known to happen during sleep, but luckily they’re mostly harmless. Sleepwalking and similar midslumber activities occur during stage 3 sleep, making it tough to rouse a sleepwalker from deep sleep but not dangerous to do so. (In fact, it can be dangerous not to wake them, considering their next move could be to try to get behind the wheel.) Sleepwalking, talking, or driving is usually due to sleep deprivation or is a side effect of certain medications and occurs in anywhere from 1 to 15% of us, according to the National Sleep Foundation. While it’s definitely most common in kids, you probably don’t have to worry if you find your spouse has migrated to the living room.
9. Makes Up Stories.
If you’ve awoken after a vivid dream, you know the vague unease of wondering if it was real–or why your mind produced that crazy mishmash of a story to begin with. Despite much research into dreaming and many hypotheses about why we dream and what dreams mean, the nuts and bolts of this everyday happening are still a mystery. Scientists have not yet figured out why we dream as we do, or found a proven process that would explain the content of our dreams.
10. Your brain cleans house.
Our brains are “on” throughout the night, especially in that dream-heavy REM sleep.Among other things, they may be taking out the trash. That’s one of the more exciting new ideas about the purpose of sleep: A 2013 study in mice found that waste removal systems in the brain are more active during sleep. Perhaps, the researchers theorized, we sleep to allow time to clear away toxic byproducts that would otherwise pile up and cause problems, like the trademark plaques of Alzheimer’s disease.
There’s probably more, but we don’t know how much we don’t know. C. Krieger wrote. “In other words, we know more about what happens when we’re sleep deprived than about what happens when we’re actually asleep. Maybe, with future research, we’ll pin down countless other processes that occur overnight and make sleep so essential.”