Many of us fall asleep each night and wake up the next day none the wiser on the very many processes our bodies have gone through during the night. How many of the following were you aware of that happen during sleep?
It’s a well-known fact that a good night’s sleep is vital for improved learning and better memory. What’s lesser known is that the different stages of sleep contribute to different types of learning and memory such as learning how to do something like riding a bicycle or playing an instrument, as opposed to processing and storing facts learned throughout the day.
Did you know we experience temporary muscle paralysis in the Rapid Eye Movement (REM) stage of sleep? We have our most graphic dreams in this sleep stage, so some believe our muscle movement is inhibited to stop us from acting out our dreams! Whether we’re dreaming about climbing the tallest mountain or swimming in the deepest ocean, our bodies stay perfectly still and tucked safely in bed. Sometimes, these muscles may not be completely inhibited which can cause sleepwalking.
During sleep, our brains release a series of hormones to fulfil a number of functions. One such hormone is the growth hormone, released by our pituitary gland. This hormone helps the body repair, regenerate and grow itself each night.Hormones such as melatonin help to put us to sleep, while hormones such as the Antidiuretic hormone (ADH) reduces the quantity of urine produced by the body and hormones Ghrelin and Leptin regulate our appetite, thereby helping us stay asleep.
Sleep is a key contributor to a well-functioning immune system. Restful and undisturbed nights of sleep free up energy in the body which is used to help build the defences of our immune system, so we can better respond to illnesses and fight off infections.
A lack of quality sleep caused by disorders such as insomnia and sleep apnoea among others could impact these defences and leave us vulnerable to a variety of ailments.