Why do we sleep?
For some, sleep is joy and pleasure: no worse than a good meal or a good rest. For someone else, sleep is an annoying waste of time that prevents them from working around the clock and getting things done. It all depends on personal priorities! But no matter how we think about sleep, the fact remains that sleep – our vital need. We can not do without it – for a number of good reasons.
How sleep works?
It seems that sleep is a state of complete rest. A kind of temporary shutdown of all systems, except for the life-support systems. In fact, however, sleep is quite dynamic and heterogeneously structured.
Our night sleep consists of 4-6 identical “chunks” of about 1.5 hours each. They are called sleep cycles. Sleep cycles are cyclical changes in the bioelectrical activity of the brain.
Within each cycle, several phases alternate.
- Stage 1 is the most superficial sleep, slumber. It is, so to speak, a transitional state between sleep and wakefulness. During the first stage, sleep does not yet perform its basic functions, and the person himself, when he awakens, does not realize that he has already slept. On the other hand, the rhythms of the brain at this stage are already quite different from those of the waking state. The first phase of sleep is the shortest and lasts only 2-5% of the duration of the cycle. It quickly transitions into the second phase.
- Sleep phase 2 is the longest and lasts about half of the cycle. In this phase, muscles relax, breathing slows down, body temperature decreases, and the pulse also becomes less frequent. At the same time, the person is still sleeping quite shallowly.
- Stage 3 of sleep is deep sleep. It replenishes the physical resources of the body. During deep sleep, important hormones such as somatotropin and testosterone are released, energy resources are stored, and white blood cells are activated.
- Stage 4 of sleep has several names: REM -Sleep, REM -eye movement sleep, BDG sleep, paradoxical sleep. During this stage, somewhat unusual (paradoxical) changes occur in the body. The brain temperature rises to the level of wakefulness or even above, while the body is not only relaxed, but paralyzed. In the BDG phase, the eyeballs move rapidly under the eyelids. The brain is actively processing information during this time, and we see dreams. The body paralysis is exactly what a person needs to avoid the repetition of sleep during the BDG phase. A physiological safety measure!
- These are the types of turbulent changes that happen to us while we sleep.
Why do we need sleep and what are its benefits?
In general, our sleep has two functions.
Restoring the body.
At night, the brain switches from the “external reaction mode” to the scanning mode of the body. It examines and checks all the indicators of our physical health: the condition of blood vessels, organs, cell walls, the composition of fluids and much more. All detected problems are corrected. That is why they say that sleep is the best medicine. Because during sleep the process of recovery from diseases is more active.
The most important part of the restorative function of sleep is the activation of immune processes. Especially the forms of defense responsible for the elimination of infectious aggressors and micro foci of malignant tumors are visibly strengthened.
In order for the body to recover properly overnight and be ready for the next day, energy is stored during sleep. By the way, be careful not to eat too much at night: Unused energy is unfortunately stored in the form of fat.
Restoring the psyche
Fast sleep is responsible for our mental component. During the BDG phase of sleep:
Memory is consolidated and long-term memories are formed. The brain filters all the memories of the past day and decides which ones to discard and which ones to put into the “piggy bank” of long-term memory.
The emotional perception is renewed. Not without reason is the morning wiser in the evening! What is perceived in gloomy tones in the evening can be seen more positively in the morning.
Mechanisms of natural inhibition that protect us from developing neuroses and other anxiety disorders are activated. Many have experienced this themselves: slept badly – irritation over the edge, slept well – and self-perception is calm.
The acquired skills are strengthened.
An interesting fact: during BDG sleep the brain is capable of residual analysis of information. Sometimes this manifests itself by coming up with new solutions and useful ideas in the morning or even at night during sleep. The story of Mendeleev, who saw the periodic table of elements in his sleep – not a fantasy!
How to get the full benefit of sleep?
Even one night without sleep impressively shows how important it is. Therefore, everyone should strive to get enough sleep: both in terms of time and quality. The following recommendations will help you to do so:
Do not pinch yourself in your sleep. Sleep according to your needs.
Try to sleep on a schedule. A consistent routine is an important guarantee of a good night’s sleep.
Exercise. Regular exercise improves the quality of deep sleep.
Do not study too late if you want to memorize a large amount of information. It is better to sleep in. Then more will stay in your head, believe me!
If you have a sleep problem, see a doctor/somnologist. He will help you understand the problem and solve it.