Sleep is the most important factor for our mental and physical well-being. There is a biological clock in every living cell. Sleep is more essential than food for life. Animals die of sleep deprivation before starvation.
To start the sleep process, pineal gland in the brain pumps melatonin. Then the brain shuts itself to outside stimulus and turns inward. When we are falling sleep, short and strong contractions of the body parts start. Brain cells begin processing and registering daily information. Our immune system then gets boosted during a good night's sleep.
5 Stages of Good Sleep
This is the first 5 minutes of shallow sleep. There is no significant change in the body yet.
Deep parts of the brain send electrical signals to knock down the cortex of the brain. The higher amount of these electrical signals predicts better performance for the next day. At the molecular level, memories are created or reinforced during this stage. It could last up to 50 minutes.
The deep, coma like stage, which is essential for brain to recuperate. The cells start producing growth hormones which is essential for bone and muscle health. It makes you feel vibrant and healthy. Pain receptors become inactive. This is the stage you won’t easily wake up.
The muscles are fully relaxed, mental activity almost stops. The brain activity form is similar to coma patients. It could last up to 30 minutes.
The Stages 1 - 4 are repeated before going to the REM stage of the sleep. The whole cycle is repeated 4 - 6 times before we wake up.
This stage is the most critical stage for survival. Rodents deprived of REM sleep die after just 5 weeks. Mostly 20 - 30% of a night's sleep is REM session in adults. Fifty percent of newborn’s sleep is REM sleep.
Distinctive eye movements, engorgement of sexual organs happen in this stage. Dreaming takes place in this phase as well. It is believed that everyone dreams but some simply don’t recall it. The body becomes unable to regulate temperature and blood pressure in the REM stage. But it is not coma-like stage as Stage 4. The brain stays fully active in the REM stage. The muscles in the eyes and ears are activated, the eyeballs move from side to side. Systems in the brain stem are completely shut down. Serotonin production stops in this stage.
The end of the REM stage is marked with brief wakening. When light comes through the eyelids and touches the retina, the wake-up signal is sent to the brain.
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Author: Dr. Tina Ureten