What Happens When We Sleep?
Sleep isn’t actually a place our brain stays static throughout the night. As we sleep, our brains cycle through four distinct phases where the dominant brainwaves change. As this happens, our brains go through fluctuations of consciousness.
Stages of Sleep:
Stage 1 – Light Sleep. You begin to make more Alpha brainwaves and you transition from awake to deeper sleep. This is the stage when people often jerk or twitch as they fall asleep.
Stage 2 – Theta brainwaves dominate this stage of sleep. Your body begins to cool down, blood pressure, heart rate, and breathing rates decrease. Almost half of your night sleeping is spent in stage 2.
Stage 3 – Deepest Sleep. Here, long, slow Delta brainwaves dominate. This is the stage in which the body heals and recovers. Not sleeping well or for enough time compromises the body’s immune system because the body isn’t spending adequate time in this stage. Those of you who have made resolution of getting in shape need to make sure you are sleeping well, because this stage is when your body does most of its healing and recovery. Complications during this stage are bed-wetting and sleep-walking.
REM Sleep – This is the stage in which dreams occur! If you’ve ever watched someone dreaming, you can see their eyes are moving under the eyelids, hence the name, Rapid Eye Movement. Brain activity has increased, and actually mimics that of being awake! Voluntary muscles are paralyzed so that you don’t act out your dreams. REM sleep is important for consolidating memories. People who get “black out” drunk don’t remember anything, because high amounts of alcohol prevent you from entering REM.
Benefits of Proper Sleep Habits
• Decreased Risk of Accident – 1 night of sleep deprivation results in driving impaired similar to being intoxicated
• Decreased Rate of Aging – Chronic sleep loss has been shown to cause metabolic and endocrine changes also found with aging
• Improved Health – Decreased risk of chronic diseases, like diabetes, heart disease, and maintain healthy weight
• Improved Immune System
• Improved Learning
• Improved Focus
• Improved Memory – Students who get a full night’s sleep outperform students who stay up all night cramming for tests
• Improved Decision Making – “Sleep on it”
• Brain Cells Growth & Repair – During sleep, myelin sheaths around nerves repair and Growth Hormone is released which stimulate protein synthesis
• Improved Energy
• Decreased Stress
• Improved Mood
Tips for a Good Night’s Sleep
• Establish a regular, relaxing bedtime routine.
• Avoid blue light. Never watch TV, use the computer, or pay bills before going to bed. The blue light stimulates the brain. Give at least 2 hours without using these screens before bed
• Avoid coffee, chocolate, caffeinated soda, or nicotine in the evening.
• Make sure your bedroom is cool, dark, and quiet.
• Use your bedroom for sleeping and relaxing only.
• Keep worry and stress outside the bedroom.
• Exercise regularly, but not too close to your bedtime.
• Get into bed only when you are tired.
• Avoid looking at the clock
• Mindful meditation and deep breathing prior to bed
• Vitamin D, 1 square of dark chocolate, and small glass of red wine prior to bed