Sleep is a vital part of your body’s daily routine. It allows your brain to rest, restore and repair itself. It also helps your body and brain to function optimally when you’re awake. However, it’s a complicated process that affects nearly every organ in your body. If you don’t get enough sleep, you may experience a variety of health consequences, from weight gain to heart disease.
There are several different types of sleep, including REM, non-REM and deep sleep. These sleep stages vary from person to person. In general, REM sleep is more intense than the other two, and it increases in length throughout the night. Non-REM sleep, or quiet sleep, is much lighter in intensity.
Non-REM sleep, or quiet sleep, takes place during the first two stages of the sleep cycle, and it involves a slowing of the brain waves, as well as a lowering of the heart rate and breathing. The brain enters this state when the eye muscles remain active, while the respiratory muscles relax.
REM sleep is a relatively long sleep stage, and it’s usually the longest in the last one-third of the sleep episode. This stage paralyzes most of the muscle groups in the body. Your breathing and pulse quicken, while your blood oxygen level drops. Aside from being a sleep aid, dreams can also feel a lot like waking life. They tend to fade away after waking, but you can write down your dreams and keep a dream journal to help recall them in the future.
Non-REM sleep is a shorter cycle. When you first fall asleep, your heart rate and breathing may be irregular, and you’ll be gasping for air. With time, however, your muscles will begin to relax and your breathing will gradually slow. After about an hour, your heart rate will return to normal and you’ll reach the lightest phase of non-REM sleep.
In addition to helping your body and brain function, sleep also helps to regulate your immune system and metabolism. During your sleep, your brain produces hormones that help your cells heal and fight infection. Other benefits of sleep include the formation of memories and pathways within the brain.
While there are several other ways that your body functions while you’re sleeping, the most important role of sleep is to allow your brain to recuperate. Sleeping promotes healing, while removing harmful toxins from your brain. Sleeping is also important for your emotional well-being. Getting too little sleep can increase your risk of obesity, cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
The body’s circadian clock, or biological clock, is a complex neurochemical system that governs your body’s rhythms. This clock is controlled by a number of factors, including your environment and your own will. Depending on your age and gender, your sleep patterns may change.
If you’re having trouble falling or staying asleep, it may be a good idea to speak with your doctor. He or she can refer you to a specialist.