Getting enough sleep at night is important for your health and well-being. It helps you feel more rested and can help you recover from illness. Sleep also affects your immune system, metabolism, and emotional well-being. When you don’t get enough sleep, you are more susceptible to chronic health problems, including obesity and diabetes.
Sleep is divided into two different stages: REM and non-REM sleep. REM sleep is also known as dream sleep. The brain waves of REM sleep are similar to those in the awake state. During REM sleep, you experience intense dreams.
Stages of sleep are controlled by the body’s circadian clock. This clock is a complex neurochemical system that regulates the body’s internal day-night rhythm. Environmental conditions, such as light and noise, can disrupt the body’s clock. In addition, pregnancy and hormonal changes during the menstrual cycle affect sleep patterns. For example, women often need more sleep during the first trimester of pregnancy.
REM sleep is considered to be very important for memory and learning. The REM stage lasts for up to 90 minutes after you fall asleep. During REM sleep, the cortex attempts to interpret random signals coming from the pons. In the process, the cortex creates a story from the fragmented brain activity. The cortex is believed to attempt to encode memories in the form of dreams.
Non-REM sleep lasts for about half of the night. It is characterized by slow brain waves called delta waves. These waves are difficult to wake up from and can cause disorientation. Non-REM sleep also reduces the brain’s responsiveness to the outside world. The hypothalamus produces a chemical called GABA, which quiets the arousal centers in the brain. Non-REM sleep can also interfere with memory.
When you’re in deep sleep, your body repairs tissues and cells. You also experience a decrease in emotional brain activity. The thalamus relays these signals to the cerebral cortex. Your heart rate slows and your breathing slows down. You may experience sudden muscle contractions, called hypnic jerks. These events are not harmful, but they can interfere with your sleep.
Deep sleep can also help maintain optimal emotional function when you’re awake. Scientists believe that this process may also contribute to a person’s social and cognitive functioning.
In addition to the pons, other areas of the brain are active during sleep. The amygdala, part of the temporal lobe, is involved in the “fight or flight” response. This area is also involved in the fear response. It is believed that dreams are created during REM sleep, when the cortex attempts to interpret random signals from the pons. During REM sleep, the cortex may attempt to encode memories in the form of dreams.
There are several types of sleep disorders. Some of the most common are insomnia and sleep apnea. You should consult your doctor if you’re experiencing these or other sleep problems. Sleep disorders can cause physical and emotional problems, as well as interfere with your work, social life, and quality of life.