Monday, February 10, 2014

"Time and health are two precious assets that we don't recognize
and appreciate until they have been depleted."
- Denis Waitley

What Happens During Sleep?

As the afternoon wears on, we realize that in a few more hours it will be sleep time.  After all, we either get up early to take the kids to school, go to work, shop for food, clothes or whatever and however we spend the day.  It all requires energy and, like your cell phone, it needs charging at night.  So sleep time is when your body rests and restores its energy levels.  It is a state that affects both your physical and mental well-being. If you've had a good night's sleep, you'll feel ready to do the things that fill your day with activity and have enough energy left over to spend with your family or talk to friends.  Let's look at what sleep involves and learn a little bit about it's four stages.

Stage 1.  Sleep studies show a reduction in activity between wakefulness and stage 1 sleep.  The eyes are closed but the depth of sleep is such that if one is awakened, it is early sleep and the person may feel as if he or she has not slept.  This period may last for five to 10 minutes.

Stage 2.  Studies at this time now show intermittent peaks and valleys, and the waves and either positive or negative.  There are spontaneous periods of increased muscle tone mixed with periods of muscle relaxation.  Also, the heart rate slows and the body temperature decreases.  When this happens, the body prepares to enter deep sleep.

Stage 3 and 4. The brain waves are known as slow or delta wave sleep.  If awakened in these stages one may feel disoriented for a few minutes.  Most of the beneficial effects of sleep can be found in stage three and four.  As sleep deepens and becomes more intense, it progresses to stage 4.  After about 90 minutes from entering the sleeping stages, REM sleep follows for about 10 minutes.  Each REM recurring deepens and lengthens so that as it progresses, sleep is more intense.

Stage 3 is characterized by the release of the human growth hormone, or HGH.  Blood rushes from the brain to the muscles to initiate recovery and to re-energize your body. Up to 70% or the production of HGH may occur in stage three and this is also when the immune function and normal glucose metabolism is supported.

Stage 4 is also know as "rapid-eye-movement sleep" or REM. This is when we dream, our arms and legs are still, and the total body seems paralyzed.  It is also when the sleep is associated with learning and memory retention. The body repairs and regenerates tissues, builds muscle and bone, and strengthens the immune system. The day's information is kind of like a computer uploading information and clearing its RAM onto the hard drive.  

Some of the important benefits of slow-wave sleep are:
  • HGH is produced and if you want to get stronger and faster, then you need your body to maximize the natural production of HGH.  If sleep is not adequate in time or depth or if exercise is not intense enough to make changes, there will be little HGH produced.
  • There is a suppression of cortisol.  Cortisol helps the body cope with the stress of daily life. When there are high levels of cortisol in the night it helps to create insulin resistance and this is linked to disorders such as Type 2 diabetes, as well as memory loss and cognitive impairment.  This process will throw off your body's ability to process glucose throughout the day.
  • There is a suppression of  the sympathetic nervous system in favor of the parasympathetic nervous system.  The sympathetic nervous system is what is activated under stress, whereas the parasympathetic nervous system is what the body activates to recover and recuperate.  
  • Release of prolactin, which is necessary for proper immune system function.
  • A good night's sleep is often the best way to help you cope with stress, solve problems or recover from illness.
Summarized; insufficient REM sleep has a negative impact on the brain as a whole and causes it to function abnormally.  Therefore, Get your sleep.......ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ!