Once we drift off to sleep, we face 8 hours of dreams and rest, to wake up feeling rejuvenated with little to no memory of the many hours that we lay unconscious. Here’s all the bizarre things our body goes through when we catch some Zzz’s.
1. First, we begin our sleep in a non-REM stage, known as the N1 stage. This progresses to the deeper N3 stage, where our minds gradually become less responsive to stimuli around us, making it harder to wake up, and slowing all functions down.
2. Half of our night is spent in the N2 or in between phase, which is where scientists believe long term memories are filed away.
3. Then, you hit the REM stage. Your eyes dart back and forth rapidly, and pulse, temperature and breathing levels readjust to daytime levels. While your body remains still, your sympathetic nervous system is lit up.
4. Our bodies undergo the sleep stages up to five times a night. REM sleep only lasts for a few minutes, but gets longer with each cycle, until it reaches a 30 minute duration.
5. Your temperature drops a few degrees as you get drowsy, and is the lowest two hours before your waking point. Your body thermometer is turned off during REM sleep.
6. Paralysis – a temporary kind. The brainstem plays a key role in the sleep process, communicating with the hypothalamus and creating a chemical called GABA which calms “arousal centers” that might negatively affect sleep. The brainstem then sends signals to temporarily paralyze muscles that stop mobility of the body.
7. Your body is flooded with hormones – melatonin controls sleep patterns and is controlled by the pineal gland. Your pituitary gland releases a growth hormone, which causes your body to repair and heal itself.
8. Your body and immune system release cytokines, which are small proteins that fight inflammation, trauma, and infections of all sorts. This is why sleeping when you’re ill or weak is important – it helps your immune system thrive and function optimally.
9. You know when you sometimes feel lame you’re falling in your sleep? It’s called a hypnagogic jerk, and is common when you fall asleep. It happens when your body is paralyzed mid dream, but starts a dream before the body is in full “off” mode.
10. You start to shed your skin. This is not the cutest aspect of sleeping, but our skin sheds every night as it generates new cells. Approximately a third of your pillow weight is made up of dead skin cells.