The Powerful World of Sleep

Written by in Sleep Science
Quick Overview

Think back to last night… Did you feel rested when you woke up? Does your back feel tight or strained? If you aren’t well rested, relaxed, and feeling good in the morning, it’s probably time to start adjusting your sleeping habits. It’s all based on sleep science. The first question you should ask yourself is: “How old is my mattress?” Oddly enough, we rarely think about our mattress, even though we use it every night, and the only time we start noticing an issue is when it’s too late. If your mattress is drooping or has weird soft or hard spots – it’s been time to get a new mattress for quite a while. If it’s longer than 6 years then it might be time to start looking. Even though your mattress is important, there is still so much more that contributes to a good night’s sleep.

What is sleep?

What is sleep? Easy question, right? It seems pretty obvious what sleep is: we close our eyes and drift off into a dreamy state of mine. This is partially true, but there is so much more to falling asleep and the state of being ‘asleep.’ Sleep is a natural state of rest, but it’s very complex in how it works. There are five different sleep stages that occur throughout the night, and each has a unique role in how rested you feel when you wake up. Skipping some of these stages can be what causes you to have trouble wanting to face the day.

Although our mind is at rest, our brain plays a huge part in the sleep process. Brainwaves are constantly being sent here and there through the night, in constant communication with the rest of your body. They start slowly after you fall asleep, and then pick up as you flow through the different stages of sleep. An easy example of this is your dreams. Dreams are a common visually manifested effect when we sleep, but they are experienced differently between people. Some see fantastic worlds form before their very eyes, some see past experiences or future adventures, and some don’t even remember when they wake up. But we all dream at some point during the night, and it’s all part of the sleep process.

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Not only are magical things taking place within your brain, but your body is actually rebooting itself for the next day to come. Sleep acts as a recovery period for our cells, tissues, and muscles. If you were to brush off the shut-eye period, over time you would begin to notice the side effects that take place internally and on the surface level.

Stages of Sleep

A full sleep cycle lasts approximately 90-110 minutes and is made of 5 stages of sleep. Each stage can last an average of 5-15 minutes. The first four stages make up our non-rapid eye movement (NREM). The fifth and final stage is when rapid eye movement occurs (REM). We tend to find ourselves in the deepest sleep between cycles 1-3.

Stage 1: Transitional Sleep

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During this stage, your sleep is very light and it is easy to be woken up. Our muscle activity is still present, but it begins to slow down. This is the time where you may feel sudden muscle movements, such as quick jerks. Eye movement is minimal and we tend to find ourselves drifting in and out here for a short period.

Stage 2

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When we move into stage two, our eye movement stops and our brainwaves begin to slow down. During this time, there can be sudden bursts of brain activity, known as sleep spindles. This stage accounts for 45-55% of your total sleep. Your blood pressure and metabolic functions also slow down here as well, and it becomes a little harder to be woken up. After about 25-35 minutes, we move into the next stage.

Stage 3: Slow-wave Sleep

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In stage three, the slowest of the brainwaves begin to transition in, with smaller and faster waves periodically in the mix. These brainwaves are known as Delta Waves. These waves help activate the body’s natural healing abilities, such as enhancement of the immune system and overall recovery. The breath becomes steady and slow and you make your way into a deeper sleep.

Stage 4: Deep Sleep

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When stage four approaches, Delta Waves are almost exclusive. This stage is known as deep sleep, which makes it very hard to wake someone up. If you have ever felt groggy from sleep, you most likely awoke yourself in this stage. A huge hint that your body and mind is telling you to go back to bed! This deep stage of sleep accounts for about 20% of your entire night as you complete your NREM phase.

Stage 5: Rapid Eye Movement

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Finally, our bodies enter into REM. Our breath becomes more rapid and shallow, and our eye movement begins to speed up. Our mind can be very active here, but our body feels as if it were paralyzed. This is also known as dream sleep. Do you ever recall not being able to run or talk in a certain way you want during your dreams? You can thank this stage of sleep for that. When you wake from this stage, your dreams are fresh in your memory. While it fluctuates person to person, as morning approaches most people tend to stay in stages 1, 2 and 5 as the morning approaches.

What is happening to your brain during sleep?

Although you are partially-to-completely unconscious during sleep, your brain is still very much alert. Neurotransmitters (nerve-signaling chemicals) communicate with different nerve cells in the brain to signal whether or not to sleep, or to stay awake. When we are ready for sleep, neurons act in a way to turn off the signals that are keeping us awake. As you begin to doze off, your brain begins to organize itself into the stages of sleep.

The brain naturally develops two styles of sleep. The first style of sleep is called slow wave sleep (SWS). This is also known as the deep stage of sleep. Let’s just say, if you try to wake someone up in SWS, good luck! Most of our sleep is spent in this style. During this time, our muscles relax and our breathing becomes very slow and deep.

The second style of sleep, rapid eye movement (REM), as mentioned, this is where your brain becomes most active. This style of sleep is also called dreaming sleep. Images that have been stored within your brain literally come to life. Your muscles become paralyzed while your brain becomes the most active of all the sleep stages.

But what about dreams?

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Have you ever found yourself in a deep dream and it seems so real that you can’t seem to pull yourself out of it? One of the most intriguing yet understood characteristics of sleep, is the ability to dream. Most of the time when you find yourself in this state of mind, it seems almost impossible to separate yourself from what is actually happening. If that isn’t confusing enough, let’s go deeper.

Most of the time, our dreams that we remember take place in stage 5 of the sleep cycle. Also known as, rapid eye movement (REM). Stage 5 is where our most vivid dreams occur. Yes, subtle imagery does occur in the other 4 stages of sleep, but it is so little or faint that we usually cannot remember. Sadly, about 90% of our dreams are lost within the 5 minutes of waking up. Some suggest to have a dream journal by your bed so you can quickly write your most recent dream. Give it a try!

Not to mention, we do not invent people while dreaming. Do you ever recall seeing someone in your dreams that you have never actually met? In order for someone to star in our dreams, we must have come into contact with them in some way at some time, even for a brief moment. For example, by watching TV, social media, or even in magazines. When you think back to dreams where you came in contact with random people, you begin to notice that our brains act more like a sponge than we could ever have imagined.

What Is Happening Inside Your Body When You Sleep

When you fall asleep, it may seem as if your body is shutting down for the night. What is so interesting about this process we all take part in, is that our bodies are actually restoring and repairing themselves. This process of sleep is essential in order to recharge ourselves for the next day.

We naturally begin to release human growth hormone (HGH) through our pituitary gland when we sleep. HGH plays a key role in cell repair and growth. Although you may not feel your cells actively doing this, as we sleep, our bodies produce about 70-80% of HGH we need. Crazy right? Think of this as your bodY’s recovery mode in full effect.

What triggers our bodies to release HGH, is when we enter the REM sleep stage. When you have a consistent sleep cycle, your body will produce this hormone at a normal rate. Consequently, when you lack a normal sleep pattern, your body will still produce HGH but at a slower rate. Don’t worry if you feel like you have fallen off the sleep wagon. In all honesty, it happens to everyone at some point. The best thing to do is realize that you need to get back on track and hit the sack.

Side Effects of Not Getting Enough Sleep

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Can you recall a past time where you didn’t get enough sleep one night, or even multiple nights? Think back to those late night study sessions in college, a last minute deadline for work, or even a few late nights out on the town. For most, we can agree that we feel less than energized and a bit groggy when we do not give our bodies the recommended 7-8 hours of sleep. Short-term side effects can include; lack of alertness, impaired memory, and daily performance, even mood swings. Although these side effects may seem minor, if you continue on the sleepless cycle you may begin to notice bigger issues down the road.

If sleepless nights persist, you can find yourself running into high blood pressure, weight gain, depression and even increase your risk of heart attacks. Some studies suggest that sleep deprivation affects the immune system in detrimental ways. Not only will the effects begin to take place internally, but you will begin to notice subtle changes in your appearance. Such as, dark circles under your eyes, and even an advance in the overall aging process, hello wrinkles! Of course, these side effects do not happen instantaneously. But without giving your body the proper rest it needs, you will find yourself at an increased risk overtime.

We hope that you saved this for bedtime reading and are already wrapped in a blanket that hugs you back so hopefully you will be able to drift off into a blissful night’s sleep. Don’t forget to keep that dream journal handy and from all of us here at Yaasa Studios we wish you the sweetest of dreams.

Be sure that you are giving yourself the rest you need at night. If you are not sure whether or not your mattress is having an effect on your sleep, give our team a call at +1 (855) 622-3711. We are always here to make sure you find your best night’s sleep and give you all the information you may need!

Goodnight and sleep well. zzzzzz

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