Sleep is such a fascinating time in our lives. We spend quite a bit of time doing it and sometimes try to avoid it at all costs. Some people sleep in excess and some of us still look forward to napping well past our pre-school days. So why does your body actually need sleep? Well, there are so many working parts that require attention after each and every single day. Sleep allows the brain and body to reboot and function efficiently for the following waking hours.
Here is what some of the research out there shows about what goes on while we sleep.
Your brain and body do a full toxin cleanse. This allows you to rejuvenate. In people who don't get restful sleep or not enough sleep, this filtration process can't be as effective. Experts say that this may be a contributing factor as to why people who are sleep-deprived have a hard time being present in their day to day activities.
You've probably watched it happen in others, but it most likely happens to you too. Every time you fall asleep, your body jerks. According to sleep experts, the intensity of the jerk suggests how sleepy you are. Basically the more intense your body jerks, the more tired it is.
Your body temperature drastically decreases. When we're active during the day, we burn more calories, so lowering our temperature is a way to reduce the burn rate and save calories that we can use during our waking hours. "It's like how bears hibernate," says Dr. Avi Ishaaya, a sleep specialist and assistant clinical professor of medicine at UCLA. "Sleep is a survival mechanism."
Useless information is forgotten. "We take in all this information all day long, and most of it is luckily forgotten," says sleep specialist Christopher Colwell at UCLA School of Medicine. "If you remembered everything, it would fill up your brain, so a sorting process takes place during sleep."
Your body becomes paralyzed, but your brain is at its most active than at any other time of the day. The brain of someone who is dreaming is actually more active than that of a person who is awake. It also requires more oxygen. "One theory is that in REM sleep, you're organizing thoughts and learning, filing information, but no one really understands specifically why a sleeping mind is active," says Dr. Alon Y. Avidan, a professor of neurology and director of UCLA's Sleep Disorders Center.
Your mind is so active during sleep that it can even make important connections and discoveries, researchers say. Sleep is therefore very important, especially when you are in the therapy process. Many clients report feeling tired or sleepy after therapy sessions. They often sleep heavier than usual for the following nights after a session.
Your immune system is at an all-time high. One study showed that people who received flu shots and were sleep-deprived the next night did not create the antibodies required to protect against the flu. "As soon as I see the first signs of an upper respiratory infection, I try to sleep for 10 hours," says Dr. Jordan Stern, founder and director of the BlueSleep Center in New York City. "If you're chronically sleep deprived, you're more likely to develop recurring infections." Hence why rest is so important when you feel physically or emotionally out of balance.
Most people wake up between 5-15 times per hour! It usually happens when we shift into different stages of sleep, such as from dreams to deep sleep. These awakenings happen so briefly that we can't and don't remember them.
You're probably breathing. Isn't that a relief? But believe it or not, up to 30% of people actually stop breathing at night. Up to 90 percent of people with this disorder, sleep apnea, go undiagnosed, including young women. The life expectancy for someone with untreated sleep apnea is only 58 years, so if you or your partner snores at night, it's time to get checked out, says Dr. Stern. Having a sleep test done at some point in your life is just as important as having a regular physical or seeing a therapist for an emotional assessment.
All of your individual brain and body cells are being completely repaired. These restorative processes take care of all the damage that's occurred during the day. When you don't get enough sleep, the effect doesn't just deplete your brain functioning, it impacts your whole body. This is why restless sleep doesn't feel like sleep at all. Minimal repair happened overnight and your brain and body aren't actually ready for the next day.
Sleep is a big part of our lives. Making sure we are aware and doing our best at having a healthy sleep routine is very important. This leads into mornings that aren't rushed where we start out with water and nutritional foods. Going through the remainder of the day knowing that whatever we pick up on our travels through life, we will have to process and let go of or store in our brains and bodies until we make time to create a more balanced life. Take your life seriously. You only get one.