The Science Of Good Sleep
Sleep accounts for one-third of the human lifespan. It serves various purposes that are essential to the brain and body. But what exactly happens while sleeping? Before the 1950s, a lot of people believed that slumber was a passive activity during which the brain and body become dormant. But later it was found that sleep is a phase during which the brain is involved in a number of activities. These activities are necessary to life and are closely linked to the quality of life.
In this article, let us have a glimpse into the powerful and often surprising findings of sleep.
All Sleep Is Not the Same
During slumber, the brain cycles through two significant parts of the sleep, non-Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep and REM sleep.
The first part of the sleep cycle is non-REM sleep. This part is composed of four stages. The first stage occurs between being awake and falling asleep. The second one is light sleep when the body temperature drops and the heart rate and breathing regulates. The third and fourth stages are of deep sleep.
Earlier REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep was believed to be the most crucial sleep phase for learning and retention. But the recent time data suggests that non-REM sleep is more crucial for these tasks. Also, non-REM sleep is the more restorative and restful phase of sleep.
As a person cycles into the REM sleep phase, their eyes move rapidly behind closed eyelids. The brain waves are the same as those during wakefulness. The breathing rate increases and the body temporarily becomes paralyzed as the person dreams.
As the night passes, the sleep cycle repeats itself. But with each passing cycle, a person spends less time in stages three and four of non-REM sleep and more in REM sleep. During restful sleep, a person typically cycles four or five times through sleep phases.
The Body’s Built-In Sleep Controls
According to Mark Wu, M.D., a Ph.D. Researcher, sleep expert, and neurologist at Hopkins, there are two main methods that regulate sleep, circadian rhythms and sleep drive.
Circadian rhythms are regulated by a biological clock that is located in the brain. One of the key functions of this biological clock is to respond to light cues, ramp up the production of the melatonin hormone at night, and stop the production of the hormone when it senses light. People with total blindness usually face trouble sleeping as they are unable to identify and respond to light cues.
The human body craves sleep as it hungers for food. Throughout the day, the desire for sleep builds. When this desire reaches a certain point, a person needs to sleep. But, there is a major difference between hunger and sleep. The body cannot force a person to eat, but it can put a person to sleep when tired. When a person is exhausted, their body even exercises microsleep episodes of two or three seconds in which the eyes remain open. Napping for more than thirty minutes in the day can throw off the night’s sleep by reducing the sleep drive of the body.
Why a Person Need Sleep
People often feel foggy or sluggish after a night of poor sleep. This is because sleep significantly impacts brain function. A healthy amount of sleep is essential for the ability of the brain to adapt to input or “brain plasticity.” If a person gets too little sleep, they become unable to process what they have learned during the day and may experience more trouble remembering it in the future. Also, sleep promotes the removal of waste from brain cells. This is something that occurs less effectively when the brain is awake.
Sleep provides rest to the body, and an inadequate amount of sleep can increase health risks. The symptoms of anxiety, depression, blood pressure, seizures, and migraines may worsen due to lack of sleep. Also, the immunity is compromised which increases the likelihood of ailment and infection.
Lack of sleep acts as a barrier between you and your optimal performance. Getting an adequate amount of sleep is a solution for health and mental productivity-related issues. But it is remarkably underrated in our present time productivity-obsessed culture. A good quality mattress also plays a vital role in providing a night of peaceful sleep.
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