You sleep for ¼-⅓ of your life! What the heck is happening while you sleep?

The complete answer to this question is still a mystery in the scientific community, but we do know some important processes that occur while we sleep.

Each sleep cycle takes between 70-120 minutes and consists of REM (Rapid-eye movement) sleep and non-REM sleep, during a typical night you’ll move through four or five cycles. During REM sleep brain activity shoots up to levels similar to when you’re awake and is associated with vivid dreams. Breathing and heart rate increases and your muscles are paralyzed (except your eye muscles and respiratory muscles) to keep you from moving during the dream content. During non-REM sleep respiration, heart rate, and body temperature reach their lowest points. Non-REM sleep is composed of 3 stages. Stage 1 is the dozing off stage, it lasts between 1-5 minutes, this is when the body isn’t fully relaxed and the body can have brief twitches. Stage 2 the body enters a more subdued state; eye movement stops and brain activity slows. During the night a person spends half their sleep time in stage 2. Stage 3 is known as deep sleep, it is hard to wake a person up in this stage.

Sleep is crucial for learning and memory storage and for removal of waste products from the brain. A lack of sleep is associated with a series of health conditions such as depression, high blood pressure, compromised immunity, and increased likeliness of infection. This is why getting 7-9 hours of sleep a night is so important!

Sleep Hygiene refers to your sleep environment and sleep related habits and when done correctly can greatly increase your ability to fall asleep and stay asleep. Some good sleep habits include…

  • Going to bed at the same time each night and waking up at the same time each morning.
  • Make sure your bedroom is quiet, dark, relaxing, and at a comfortable temperature.
  • Avoid large meals, caffeine, and alcohol before bedtime.
  • Being physically active during the day can help you fall asleep more easily at night.
  • Turn off electronic devices at least 30 minutes before bedtime to limit blue-light exposure.