Though we may look peaceful while sleeping, a lot is happening in our bodies. Indeed, the function of sleep is to put the individual offline so that certain physiological functions, which cannot be performed while awake, can take place. Sleep is therefore a crucial time of reconstruction, but also of energy regulation. While certain organs (lungs, intestine, heart rate, etc.) slow down, the brain, on the hand, is boiling, activating areas that do not function during the awake time.
It’s a kind of transfer of activities. This is when all the consolidation phenomena will occur. Areas of memory are reactivated, allowing learning in particular. In addition to these classic mechanisms, some uncontrollable behaviors also occur… without even realizing it! Below you will find 10 things that happen we do during sleep.
Helping children grow
During the night, especially during deep sleep, children and adolescents secrete growth hormones that allow them to grow taller. Adults are not left out as they regenerate their tissues. It is also at this time that the immune defenses are revigorated.
Another interesting fact about the way sleep works is that it paralyzes your muscles. During REM sleep, the frontal cortex, which controls the movement of the body, is almost turned off. However, some people do not experience this paralysis and physically act out their dream, which can be very dangerous for them and others.
Your body temperature decreases
During REM sleep, your sympathetic nervous system relaxes, your blood pressure drops, your breathing slows down, and your temperature drops because the cells that regulate it turn off. Thus, your body temperature is at its lowest a few hours before you wake up. Therefore, sleeping in a cool place can signal to your body that it is time for it to rest.
Strengthening your immune system
You must have already noticed it: the weaker, sleep-deprived and more tired you are, the more you tend to catch infectious diseases. And for good reason: good sleep is the key to a strong body. While you sleep, the latter fights infection by releasing cytokines, proteins secreted by the body’s cells that act as chemical mediators.
Preventing mood disorders
Sleep also helps regulate neurotransmitters (molecules that allow the brain to send messages between neurons, including norepinephrine, serotonin and dopamine). When your neurotransmitters are out of balance, your brain does not work as well: you are less alert than usual and your mood vacillates. Many studies have made the link between sleep disorders and depression. In addition, research has confirmed that the chances of being involved in a car accident quadruple for people who sleep less than five hours a night. Conversely, getting enough and good sleep helps keep neurotransmitter levels stable. In other words, you are in a better mood and more focused when you sleep well.
Improving your memory
Most people go through six REM cycles per night, each lasting about 90 minutes. Since this sleep is where you have most of your dreams, your brain becomes more active, sorting through memories and analyzing information from the day, which helps strengthen long-term memory. “Dreaming is very different in non-REM sleep than in REM sleep. Non-REM dreams are much more literal and precise; it is mostly during this phase that our brain goes over memories of the previous day. REM sleep is when the creative, abstract and weird side of dreams occurs,” Dr. Matt Johnson, neuroscientist and professor of psychology at the Hult International Business School, told Business Insider.
Cleaning your brain
Sleeping allows your brain to clean up toxins that build up during the day, according to a University of Rochester study. Some of this waste is partly responsible for neurological pathologies, this function specific to sleep is therefore essential for a healthy brain.
Controlling your stress
When you sleep, your pineal gland releases melatonin, a hormone that controls the biological rhythm. In addition, according to researchers from the Cleveland Clinic, your body also produces an antidiuretic hormone preventing you from peeing in the middle of the night. At the same time, your levels of cortisol, the main stress hormone secreted by the adrenal glands, drop. Conversely, if you lack sleep, your stress production will increase. Studies have shown that sleeping 6 instead of 8 hours per night increases cortisol levels by 50%, which is not negligible.
Keeping your skin healthy and beautiful
Do you want beautiful skin? Sleep, sleep, sleep. “Many skin cells have circadian clocks and are directly affected by the amount of sleep we get each night. Maintaining a regular sleep schedule can keep our skin healthy. A lack of sleep can contribute to skin conditions like psoriasis, acne and rosacea. In addition, according to a Korean study published last year, after a night of sleep deprivation, participants experienced a decrease in elasticity and hydration of the skin. Their pores were more visible and blood flow to the skin of the face was reduced.
Increasing your libido
Has your sex-drive been down lately? Go to bed early. Sleeping nine hours a night could increase your desire for sex by 14% the next day, according to a study published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine.
Improving your pain endurance
Sleep increases your resistance to pain. In fact, according to a study by the journal Sleep, people who sleep an average of nine hours a night can endure pain for up to 25% longer than those who sleep seven hours. If you have a physically demanding day ahead of you, sleeping better can help you endure it better.
Vanessa is originally from the Ukraine. She has been living in Florida for the last 10 years. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Central Florida and a Master’s degree in Technical Writing from the University of South Florida. She covers mostly health and health-related issues for the Scientific Origin.