What Is Sleep?

What Are You Doing When You Catch Some Z's?

Have you ever really sat down and thought about what sleep actually is?

Most people haven't. They certainly know when they haven't had enough sleep, and most people have a decent idea of how much sleep they need to function. Beyond that, it's simply a fact of life. You turn the lights down, snuggle under the covers, close your eyes, and off you go.

But although sleep might seem simple, it's a complex biological process that is absolutely necessary for life. To help you learn more, we've put together this quick primer on what sleep is and why you need it so much.

What Sleep Is

You might think that sleep is a passive, dormant state – when your brain shuts down (or goes into sleep mode!) and only those bodily functions that are necessary for life continue to happen. This actually isn't the case. When you sleep, your brain, eyes, and some muscles can be very active.

Sleep happens when certain neurotransmitters in the brain signal that it's time to fall asleep. Once you lie down and turn off the light, your body goes through several sleep stages. Stage 1 is the lightest sleep, characterized by drifting in and out of sleep, slow eye movement, and some muscle activity. Stage 2 sleep is deeper. Eye movement stops, and brain wave activity slows. Once you move into stage 3 sleep, your brain starts to give off delta waves (extremely slow brain waves), and in stage 4, your brain gives off delta waves exclusively. Stages 3 and 4 together are known as deep sleep. After you've moved through stage 4, you might slip into rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. This is when dreaming occurs.

A full sleep cycle will last anywhere from 90 to 110 minutes, which is obviously less than a full night's sleep. You go through a few sleep cycles each night, with the length of each stage varying depending on the time of night. Most deep sleep occurs earlier in the night. By morning, you should be spending all your time in stage 1, stage 2, and REM sleep – which is what leads to those strange dreams we all have when we wake up!

Why Sleep Is Important

Put simply, sleep is necessary for life. All animals with complex brains do it, and missing sleep can be deadly. In fact, scientists studying rats have found that complete sleep deprivation can kill rats in as little as 3 weeks (as opposed to their normal lifespan of 2-3 years). Even just depriving rats of REM sleep can lead to death in 5 weeks.

In humans, missing sleep can result in all kinds of negative consequences. We've already talked about the signs of sleep deprivation in a previous post, but here's a quick review: Losing sleep can lead to weight gain, depression, increased risk-taking behavior, skin breakouts, and a depressed immune system.

With all of that in mind, you can see why it's best to put the coffee down, turn off the TV, and grab some shut-eye when you can!

How We Can Help

Since sleep is so important, it's extra important to make sure you have a mattress that allows you to get the most restful sleep possible. If your current mattress isn't doing the job, come to Mattress One to find a new one! We'll make sure you go home with the best mattress for your needs, at a price that fits your budget. Visit us today to start shopping.

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