Do you take sleep for granted? Perhaps if it is all too often elusive for you, you may curse that it seems so easy for everyone else. We all know that every living being has to sleep. From fruitflies to humpback whales, sleep is an essential component of a healthy lifestyle.

So how exactly does sleep happen and why?

Researchers studying fruit flies discovered a cluster of neurons in their brains that trigger when sleep is necessary. While the research was not on humans, it is believed that humans have corresponding neurons in our brains that indicate to our bodies when we need to sleep.

The science of sleep is complex. Sleep maintains the cognitive functions in our brains. It allows us to maintain proper levels of brain development in areas of speech, memory, and innovative and flexible thinking. Our sleep cycles are further divided into specific parts.

Light sleep

This is that time when you feel as though you are straddling both wakefulness and sleep. Muscle activity slows and twitching is not uncommon. It is easy to wake someone in a light sleep.

True sleep

About ten minutes into light sleep, we enter true sleep for approximately 20 minutes. Your breathing and your heart rate begin to slow down.

Deep sleep

This phase begins when your heart and breathing slow even more and your body begins to produce delta waves. This is followed by heavy sleeping where breathing is regular and muscle movements are almost non-existent. This is the stage when situations such as bedwetting and night terrors in children occur. Some people may also experience sleep walking.

REM sleep

Rapid Eye Movement, or REM, sleep is when your brain is most active. This is when most dreams occur and our bodies are prevented from movement to stop us from acting them out.

When these natural sleep cycles are disrupted it can lead to issues including insomnia, pain conditions, and anxiety.

How well do you generally sleep at night?

Image by h4cknEy3d via Flickr


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