A lot happens when you sleep. Sleep is crucial for the body and it’s crucial for the brain, but sometimes we don’t understand exactly what is happening when we get our ZZZs. Her a bit of the process and why it’s important.
While you’re sleeping your body cycles between to different sleeping modes — Rapid eye movement (REM) and non-rapid eye movement (non-REM).
During the REM part of your cycle it does just as the name implies; your eyes move rapidly in different directions. This doesn’t happen during the non-REM part of the cycle. Usually this happens about 90 minutes after you fall asleep and the first period of REM lasts typically around 10 minutes. Each cycle of REM sleep gets longer and longer and the final one may last up to an hour. Your heart beat and breathing quickens and you can have intense dreams because your brain is more active.
REM sleep is important for brain function and focuses entirely on the brain. You brain is so active during REM sleep that your body is completely and totally inactive, so inactive that you’re actually paralyzed during REM sleep.
REM is very important for emotion regulation and memory — your brain is clearing itself of things that aren’t needed. It’s also the peak of protein synthesis at the cellular level, which keeps many processes in the body working properly.
During non-REM sleep your body goes through 3 different stages:
1. Your eyes are closed but it’s easy to wake you. This only lasts about 5 to 10 minutes.
3. This is the deepest stage of sleep. It’s harder to wake you and if you were to be woken up you would feel disoriented for a few minutes.
Unlike REM sleep, during the last stages of non-REM your body focuses on repairing and regrowing tissues, builds bone and muscles as well as strengthens your immune system. This stage is crucial to reach and is what keeps us happy and healthy.
As you get older it becomes more difficult for you to get as deep sleep. You’ll begin to sleep lighter and for less amount of time. However, it is still important to get the same amount of sleep as when you were younger.
In order to reach each stage and cycle of sleep it is extremely important to get a minimum of 7.5–8 hours of sleep each night. This will help with your health, keep your body and brain from aging as quickly, and increase your emotional and mental health, and ultimately a happier life.