What is Sleep
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Definition of Sleep: the natural periodic suspension of consciousness during which the powers of the body are restored.
There are two main types of sleep:
Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep
accounts for 20% of total sleep time
During REM sleep, our brain is very active, our muscles are very relaxed, our eyes move quickly from side to side and we dream.
REM sleep functions:
- Nervous fatigue recovery
- Organisation and incorporation of acquired knowledge (memory) and withdraw of useless information.
accounts for 80% of total sleep time
The brain is quiet, but the body may move around. Hormones are released into the bloodstream and our body repairs itself after the wear and tear of the day.
There are 4 stages of non-REM sleep:
- Pre-sleep – The muscles relax, the heart beats slower and body temperature falls.
- Light sleep – we can still be woken easily without feeling confused.
- Slow wave sleep – our blood pressure falls, we may talk in our sleep or sleep walk. This is also the stage in which such parasomnias as night terrors, bedwetting and teeth grinding occur.
- Deep slow wave sleep – we become very hard to wake. If we are woken, we feel confused.
Non-REM sleep functions:
- Restoring physical energy
- Increasing immune functions
- Producing protein and glycogen
- Secreting hormones such as prolactin and growing hormones.
We move between REM and non-REM sleep about five times throughout the night, dreaming more as we get toward the morning.
During a normal night, we will also have short periods of waking. These last 1 or 2 minutes and happen every 2 hours or so. We aren’t usually aware of them. We are more likely to remember them if we feel anxious or there is something else going on – noises outside, our partner snoring etc.
The different sleep stages
Night sleep consists of several 90-minute cycles repeated 4-5 times each night. Each cycle includes 5 stages:
|Stage 1: Fall asleep|
|Stage 2: Light sleep (NREM sleep)|
|Stage 3: Deep Sleep (NREM sleep)|
|Stage 4: Deeper Sleep (NREM sleep)|
|Stage 5: REM Sleep|