Although we may not fully understand the science of sleep as it pertains to unique individuals, we all know how terrible we feel when we don’t get enough. We do know the reason for that! Our bodies miss important parts of their housekeeping routine when we don’t sleep long enough. In the short-term we feel groggy and out of sorts, and we can’t think as clearly or make good decisions. Studies show that habitual lack of quality sleep can raise the odds of developing high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, depression, and diabetes.
How Sleep Works
The secret to sleep lies within your brain. The hypothalamus gathers information that affects sleep and arousal and communicates with the brain stem to control the changes between sleep and wakefulness. The thalamus relays information it receives from your senses to the cerebral cortex. The pineal gland receives light information from the hypothalamus and produces melatonin to help you go to sleep when the lights go out.
Stages of Sleep
Most of you have heard about REM and non-REM sleep and probably remember that dreams happen during REM sleep. The truth is, your sleep process passes through several states. Here are a few fun facts.
You start your sleep in Non-REM sleep and it occurs in 3 stages:
- Stage 1 — You have several minutes of light sleep where your heart, breathing, and eye movements slowly decrease.
- Stage 2 — You enter into light sleep with continued decreases in physical activity while eyes stop moving and body temperature drops.
- Stage 3 — This is when you get the deep sleep necessary to feel rested in the morning. Each period lasts longer during the first half of your night’s sleep. Now your heart and breathing are at the lowest level for the night.
Within 90 minutes of falling asleep you will enter REM sleep. Most dreaming does occur during REM, but they also happen during non-REM. It is believed that consolidation of memories requires both REM and non-REM sleep.
During the night you will cycle through Stages 1–3 of non-REM and the REM stage several times. Each time, the period of REM sleep will become longer and deeper until you awake in the morning.
Is There a Magic Number of Hours to Sleep?
In short, no. The amount of sleep we need changes as we age and can differ from person to person. Most adults should get between 7 and 9 hours each night. Although it feels good to “sleep in” on weekends, it is safe to say that you can’t really make up for chronic lost hours of sleep in one or two days on a weekend.
You Can Get a Good Night’s Sleep!
If you awaken each morning feeling like you were up all night; if you find yourself chronically tired and lacking concentration and zest for life, you could be suffering from a sleep disorder. Diagnosing and treating sleep disorders is what we do! We welcome the opportunity to answer your questions and concerns about your sleep problems. If you are in Indiana in the Granger, Middlebury, Warsaw, or Plymouth areas, contact our office today for an evaluation. We look forward to meeting you.