Thursday, July 03, 2008

While You Were Sleeping

We sleep every night, roughly around 6-8 hours - which is about 1/3 of a day. But how much do we know about "sleeping" ?

Sleep is prompted by natural cycles of activity in the brain and consists of two basic states: rapid eye movement (REM) sleep and non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep, which consists of Stages 1 through 4. During sleep, the body cycles between non-REM and REM sleep. Typically, people begin the sleep cycle with a period of non-REM sleep followed by a very short period of REM sleep. Dreams generally occur in the REM stage of sleep. During the deep stages of NREM sleep, the body repairs and regenerates tissues, builds bone and muscle, and appears to strengthen the immune system. As you get older, you sleep more lightly and get less deep sleep.

Usually, REM sleep occurs 90 minutes after sleep onset. The first period of REM typically lasts 10 minutes, with each recurring REM stage lengthening, and the final one may last up to an hour. In people without sleep disorders, heart rate and respiration speed up and become erratic during REM sleep. During this stage the eyes move rapidly in different directions.
Intense dreaming occurs during REM sleep as a result of heightened brain activity, but paralysis occurs simultaneously in the major voluntary muscle groups.

The percentage of REM sleep is highest during infancy and early childhood. During adolescence and young adulthood, the percentage of REM sleep declines. Infants can spend up to 50% of their sleep in the REM stage of sleep, whereas adults spend only about 20% in REM.


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