Sleep is a vital part of human life, and it plays a role in our health and well-being. It helps us maintain pathways in our brains and is necessary for emotional health. Our body produces hormones that help to repair cells and fight illness. In addition, sleep is important for memory function. The National Sleep Foundation says that 60 percent of adults suffer from sleep problems a few nights a week. Not getting enough sleep can result in a number of health problems, including increased risk for depression and diabetes.
During sleep, the brain cycles through two types of sleep: REM and Non-REM. REM sleep is a type of deep sleep that is associated with dreams. During REM, the brain’s hypothalamus makes a chemical called GABA that calms the arousal centers of the brain. During non-REM sleep, the brain becomes more drowsy and the brain begins to produce hormones that help with repair of the body.
REM and Non-REM are each divided into three stages, but most people go through the stages a few times a night. For instance, a person may have a stage R sleep of 10 minutes, followed by a stage N3 that lasts 30 to 60 minutes, and then a final stage R that lasts just a few minutes. Each of these cycles lasts for a total of about 90 minutes, and they gradually get shorter with each new cycle.
Although a majority of people have sleep disorders, it is possible to get enough sleep without problems. It is important to remember that it takes at least seven hours to get a full night’s sleep. If you don’t get enough sleep, your immune system becomes weak and you are at an increased risk of developing diabetes, heart disease, and other serious illnesses.
REM and Non-REM sleep both help the brain work better when awake. In REM, the brain’s hypothalamus creates a chemical called GABA that quiets the arousal centers and relaxes the muscles. While in non-REM, the brain’s glymphatic system clears away waste from the central nervous system. These processes can be disrupted by a number of physical and mental factors, including arthritis, pregnancy, a 24/7 lifestyle, and long-distance travel.
One of the most important benefits of sleep is that it allows the brain to clear out toxins. It is also thought that REM sleep may help with brain development in infants. A recent study showed that rats deprived of REM sleep live 5 weeks longer than those who had adequate rest.
The first REM stage lasts for about a minute, but as the night progresses, the stage R gets longer. Scientists believe that the cortex attempts to interpret random signals from the pons during REM sleep. This process helps to encode memories and improve learning.
As you get older, the amount of time you spend in deep sleep decreases. This is a result of the biological clock that governs our growth and aging. When the clock runs too fast or too slow, the body is unable to function properly.