All you need to know about sleep

Sleeping cat

Seemingly we were too busy napping to wish everyone Happy National Napping Day on Monday. However, during our time in the land of nod we wondered what actually happens to our minds and bodies when we are sleeping. After being slightly distracted by ‘25 Cats Napping In Places That Don’t Even Seem Possible’ we have gathered up some sleeping facts you can whack out in the gym, in the pool or when you’re enjoying a nice (decaffeinated) coffee.

Okay let’s start with a little bit of terminology. There are two types of sleep NREM (Non rapid eye movement) and REM (rapid eye movement) sleep.
NREM- This occurs during 75% of your sleep and has 4 different stages.
REM-Although “everybody sleeeeps…sometimes” I’m not referring to the 80s rock band. This sleep occurs 25% of the night 90minutes after falling asleep and reccurs every 90 minutes getting longer each time.

As soon as we settle down to sleep we enter a sleep cycle which repeats throughout the night; it goes a little like this:

  • NREM Stage 1-5-10mins into the sleep cycle.
    Muscles begin to relax
    Hypogenic jerks may occur (that strange jumpy thing your body does in bed when you feel like you’re falling).
  • NREM Stage 2 – Become disengaged from surroundings
    Breathing & heart rate are regular
    Body temperature drops
  • NREM Stage 3&4 – Deepest and most restorative stage
    Blood pressure drops
    Breathing becomes slower
    Blood supplies to muscles increase
    Tissues growth and repairs occur
    Energy restored
    Hormones are released
  • REM– Provide energy to brain and body
    Supports day time performance
    Brain becomes active and we dream
    Eyes dart back and forth – Apparently your eye movement mirrors the movement they make in your dream!
    Muscles ‘turn off’
    R E P E A T

Now for some benefits of sleep…

Lose weight doing nothing

During sleep our ghrelin and leplin hormones are regulated meaning that it controls the feelings of hunger and fullness. Some cases of sleep deprivation can lead to someone gaining weight. But for those sleepy heads, this could be the laziest form of activity which can make you feel full!

Improve your memory

Snoozing can strengthen memories and even ‘practise’ skills you’ve learnt throughout the day. Meaning that those early morning exams aren’t such a bad thing as you tend to perform better after sleeping.

Better quality of life

The closer you are to hitting those 7 hours sleep each night the more often you wake up in the morning bursting with energy. It’s the hormone cortisol which dips at bedtime and increases over night that promotes alertness in the morning.

Achieve your goals

Got a big game coming up? Sleeping can massively improve our performance within sport. A study researched by Stanford University discovered college football who slept for at least 10 hours a night improved their average sprint time and upped their stamina.

Lack of sleep, lack of focus

Whereas a lack of sleep in us adults can make finding the remote control a hardship, kids can be affected in the opposite way becoming hyperactive and impulsive – until they crash and the tears start of course.

Lowers Stress

Sleep reduces levels of stress within our bodies because people can have better control of their blood pressure. It can also effect cholesterol levels which plays a significant role in heart disease.

So there we have it, if we haven’t bored you to sleep you can now spread your new found sleeping knowledge!


Jessica Young - Communications Assistant

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