We all do it. Even if we try to stay awake, nature eventually catches up and forces it upon us. Sleep. A natural replenisher of well-being, we sleep every night in order to repair our bodies and prepare ourselves for the next day. What type of things happen to us while we are sleeping? You can read the National Sleep Foundation’s article on the different stages of sleep, but here is a compressed list of what happens while we are asleep.
- Our body temperature lowers - This is why it is often recommended to sleep cooler, not warmer. If it is too warm when we are sleeping, this makes it more likely that we will wake up during the night.
- Our heart rate slows down - We aren’t expanding as much energy, so our hearts don’t need to be full-speed ahead as we slumber.
- Our breathing slows down - As with our heart rate, our breathing slows down when we are asleep.
- Our muscles relax - We aren’t moving around, so this gives our muscles a period in which to settle down.
- Our bodies repair themselves - Our immune system is basically strengthened by sleep. Cells, organs, and muscles can begin to repair themselves overnight.
- We experience REM - Rapid Eye Movement, or REM, occurs during sleep. This period is where our eyes literally move back and forth as different things happen to our bodies.
- We become temporarily paralyzed - During REM sleep, our bodies stay extremely immobile. This temporary paralysis is helpful to keep us from moving around during our dreams.
- Our heart rate and breathing speed up - The same way our heart rate and breathing slows down when we first fall asleep, it speeds back up during REM.
- We dream - It is during REM that we have the most dreams, though we can actually have dreams even if we are in light or deep sleep, which are different from REM sleep.
- We clear our heads - Literally. When we sleep, the information that is no longer needed gets forgotten. We also are able to better retain information that we learned during the day.
All of the above happen when we sleep. Sometimes we don’t sleep well. There are things we can do when we don’t sleep well, along with ways we can tell that we DID get good sleep. Personally, I like to monitor my sleep with a sleep tracker that I wear on my wrist. Though the best indicator of a good night’s sleep is how I feel the next day, my tracker helps me remember how many times I got out of bed during the night. To help me get the best sleep, I always make sure I am sleeping on comfortable sheets and pillows. I might not remember how many dreams I have each night, or how many times I fell into REM sleep, but that’s okay. Being able to function is my body’s way of telling me that I indeed slept. I’m okay with that.