So, what exactly happens when you hit the sack? According to the National Sleep Foundation, a night of healthy sleep should cycle through five sleep stages every 90 minutes or so. The first four stages make up our non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep, and the fifth stage is when rapid eye movement (REM) sleep occurs.
Different phases of adequate sleep
Stage 1: Drowsy
This is the transitional phase. You may be partially awake while your mind floats in and out of consciousness. After 5-10 minutes, this drowsiness will eventually lead you to the next stage.
Stage 2: Light Sleep
The second stage is when the body temperature drops and the heart rate begins to slow. As the brain activity becomes slow, sleep spindles happen. This is the familiar muscle twitching you experience during sleeping. This stage lasts for about 20 minutes and this is where your “power nap” should end.
Stage 3: Moderate Sleep
Consequently, your blood pressure and breathing rate will drop while your muscles relax when you reach this stage. You are difficult to be woken up in this stage and you should be. Stages 3 and 4 are where growth hormones were released. These hormones help to replenish muscles and tissues that were exerted over the course of the day. Walking, talking, or kicking while asleep happens on this stage.
Stage 4: Intense Deep Sleep
For about 30 minutes, you will have the deepest sleep. This is the restorative phase where brain tissue grows and restored. During this rejuvenation, blood flow to the muscles increases as it gives oxygen and nutrients. Appetite-controlling hormones are also released to help you limit feeling hungry the following day.
Stage 5: REM/Dream Sleep
When you reached the REM sleep, the brain becomes more active while the body is relaxed and immobilized. The eyes move rapidly and dart in various directions. Breathing becomes slower and irregular while the heart rate and blood pressure rise from the levels they were in previous stages. Most dreaming takes place on this stage. This is the ideal stage where the quality of sleep revitalizes the brain, supporting sharp and alert daytime function.
It is important to note that these phases last for different durations at various ages.
What’s in it for you?
Understanding the sleep cycle and how it affects our body is important in order to maintain a healthy mind and body. With this information, one should always aim for uninterrupted, good quality sleep each night.
Sleep is as important as the air we breathe and the food we take. When we don’t get enough sleep, we suffer in many ways, and in various aspects of life.
We all need to be touched. Our need for physical contact is manifested since birth. As babies, we cry, suckle, and cling to our parents or caregivers. These attachment behaviors promote physical closeness, and we might be reaping the benefits without us knowing.
Cuddling for about 10 minutes releases a hormone called oxytocin or the “love hormone” while inhibiting cortisol aka "the stress hormone". It relieves pain, boosts your immune system, and eases stress or tension. Cuddling before bedtime is even greater because it helps you fall asleep.
Lack of sleep affects the immune system. People who slept 6 hours or less were 4 times more likely to catch a cold compared to those who have an average of 7 hours or more of sleep. Major benefits your immune system gets with enough sleep include the following:
Increased immune function, reduced risk to colds and flu, fight infection and illnesses, help recover from diseases, and beats mental disorders.