The Cycle of Sleep and Its Importance
In the folklore of several nations, there is an idiom that states “Your morning is always smarter than your evening”. It is widely known that people who are not well rested cannot find the right way out of a very simple situation. Unfortunately, each and every adult is very familiar with these kinds of situations — which are accompanied by constant headaches, fatigue, poor concentration, and so on. Scientific experiments have proven that sleep patterns directly affect the human body and mind. To be more precise, sleep has two different phases or types – slow and fast. Therefore, for those who want to preserve their health, it is a must to follow a healthy sleep schedule.
The “sleeping state” of the body is directly connected to consciousness. The process of the constant interchange of these two states defines the level of the working capabilities of the behavioral, emotional, hormonal and immune systems of every human being. Every biological change or adjustment of the human body is happening according to the biological clock, the best representation of which is the interchange of day and night.
Humans are naturally predisposed to sleeping 1\3 of their lives in order to protect the systems that provide and secure the living capability of your organism. That is why, while the person is asleep, the psychological connection with the outer world breaks.
What is the cycle of sleep?
The sleep is a cyclic process, every cycle of which consists of the phases of slow (or non-Rapid Eye Movement) and fast (or Rapid Eye Movement) sleep. One complete sleep cycle lasts for about 8 hours and contains 5 interchanging sleeping cycles (every one of them lasting for about 1.5 hours).
What are the differences between non-REM and REM sleep?
The phase of slow sleep is dominant in the cycle, occupying around 80% of it. Fast sleep, accordingly, takes over the remaining 20% of the cycle. However, its concentration grows towards the end of the sleep cycle.
What’s more, the duration is not the only difference. Their aims also differ. Slow or non–REM sleep is vital for restoring the body energy levels, while RAM sleep helps your brain to better the functions of memory and information analysis, as well as to protect and restore the nerve system.
One other contrast of the sleeping phases is in the level of brain activity. Non-REM sleep is characterized by the very low levels of brain activity, while during the REM sleep all the processes in the brain of a human are more alert. (The usual explanation given is that during REM phase the person is sleeping, but the brain is not)
How does healthy sleep cycle look like?
Healthy sleep usually starts with the slow sleeping phase, which lasts for about 30 minutes while the person is falling asleep. The best optimal hours to fall asleep are between 9 and 11 pm. Then all the other phases follow, with the sleep becoming deeper and deeper. (One curiosity is that such things as ‘sleepwalking’, scary dreams or ‘sleep-talking’ can occur throughout the 4th sleeping phase – when sleep is the deepest)
The repetition of 4-5 sleeping phases can occur from 3 to 5 times per a sleeping cycle. However, closer to the morning hours, the 4th phase (the deepest sleeping one) can get very short or fall out, for the phase of RAM or fast sleep comes into action, allowing you to wake up much easier and not “on the wrong side of the bed”. That being the case, the person will feel good, refreshed and ready to start the day.
What is so important about good sleep?
Good and timely sleep is vital for your body in terms of getting good rest. Sleep-deprived people, or the ones whose sleeping schedules are not regulated, suffer from chronic fatigue, depression, poor concentration, apathetic attitude towards important things or people, unreasonable anger splashes and so on. Prolonged lack of proper sleep may also lead to more serious outcome, such as heart diseases, insomnia, diabetes, schizophrenia, panic attacks, stroke, atherosclerosis etc.
Sleep has direct influence on metabolism. That is, deep sleep helps to increase the cells’ oxygen supply and increases the functionality of liver and kidneys which are vital for cleansing out all the ‘trash’ like toxins from your body.
REM sleeping phase helps your brain to filter the information gained throughout the previous day, singling out what is of the paramount importance.
Regular sleep also has appearance benefits. People who take care of their sleeping schedules actually look more attractive and younger, since their metabolism is well-maintained. Sleeping well also prevents premature aging of the skin and muscles due to the fact that the cells get enough oxygen to function to their utmost.