We spend about a third of our lives sleeping. This alone shows that sleep plays a central role in our lives. And not without reason: sleep has many functions that are essential for a healthy everyday life. Here you can find out what exactly happens during sleep and how you can get the best out of your sleep.
Table of Contents
- Active while sleeping
- Overview of sleep phases
- This happens while you sleep
- Sleep - the central recovery period
Active while sleeping
sleep = doing nothing? None! Numerous essential processes take place during sleep, because sleep is the central regeneration period for our body and especially for our brain. For a long time it was assumed that our brain is less active during sleep - in fact, it is just differently active. During the day it processes information continuously and these processes require a lot of energy. Although the brain only occupies about 2% of our body volume, it consumes about 20% of the total energy. When we calm down and close our eyes, the activity of our nerve cells (neurons) is reduced and energy consumption slowly decreases.
During the night we then go through several sleep cycles, which in turn are divided into different sleep phases. A cycle lasts about 90 to 110 minutes and is repeated several times a night. The first two sleep cycles are particularly important for brain recovery. Therefore, they are also referred to as core sleep.
Overview of sleep phases
After a short period of falling asleep, we usually fall into a light sleep stage. Then our muscles relax, pulse and breathing become more even and the body temperature drops.
This superficial sleep, in which we spend almost half of our sleeping time, is followed by deep sleep. It dominates the first third of the night and ensures that our body shuts down even further, heartbeat and breathing slow down and blood pressure drops. Especially in deep sleep, when nerve activity is significantly reduced, the energy stores in our brain can be recharged. At the same time, numerous hormones and messenger substances are released that control and support metabolic and regeneration processes.
After deep sleep, we then slide into the dream sleep phases, also known as REM phases, in which our brain processes and evaluates the experiences of the day. REM stands for "Rapid Eye Movement", because during these sleep periods we dream and move our eyes quickly back and forth under the closed lids. For this to work, blood flow to the brain increases, blood pressure rises, and our heart rate and breathing also become more irregular.
The core sleep, i.e. the first two sleep cycles, are particularly important for our regeneration. But what actually happens in our body while we sleep?
This happens while you sleep
Learning and memory processes
At work, at school or in our free time - our brain takes in information both consciously and unconsciously. During sleep, these impressions are stored, processed, organized or deleted by the brain and pass from short-term memory to long-term memory. In this way, relevant information is stored for the long term and made available for retrieval, and unimportant information is deleted so that we are ready for the next day after we have slept. Sleep plays a central role in our ability to learn. You can find out more about learning while you sleep in this article.
Strengthening of the immune system
During sleep, the number of natural defense cells in the body increases and our immune system works at full speed to protect us from viruses, bacteria and other pathogens. "The immune system is directly related to the length and quality of our sleep." says sleep researcher and smartsleep® founder Dr. Markus Dworak. So if you get enough sleep, you reduce the likelihood of getting sick and give the body time to strengthen its defences.
Our hormone balance is also active while we sleep. Important growth hormones are released, which are involved in almost all functions in our body. They control enzyme production and cell renewal, help build and repair tissue and support the regeneration of our body cells. Sleep is particularly essential for maintaining healthy skin, hair, nails and connective tissue and thus forms an important basis for a healthy and beautiful appearance. You can read here how exactly sleep makes us beautiful.
Optimization of metabolism
During the night, the body has the rest it needs for important metabolic and digestive processes. Metabolism products, such as uric acid, are broken down to a greater extent and the fat metabolism is also active to provide energy for regeneration.
Sleep - the central recovery period
Sleep is essential for our body and mind in many ways. While the consciousness comes to rest at night, the brain by no means remains idle - it processes, sorts and stores the information and impressions of the day. And our body also needs sleep in order to repair body cells, to regulate the hormone balance and metabolism and to strengthen the immune system. These are numerous tasks that are fundamental to our health and show us how important healthy sleeping habits and enough sleep really are.
At night we go through several sleep cycles, which are divided into falling asleep, light sleep, deep sleep and dream or REM sleep phases
During sleep, learning and memory processes take place that process, organize and store information and impressions of the day
During sleep, growth hormones are released, which support cell renewal and regeneration and thus promote healthy skin, hair and nails
The metabolism is regulated and optimized during sleep
The number of immune cells increases at night, which strengthens the immune system during sleep
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