Sleeping is one of the sacred acts of our lives: almost every night of our life, at some point, we lay down and fall asleep. Closing your eyes and relinquishing yourself to the enjoyable sensation of falling asleep is not only pleasurable, but crucial to our mental and physical health. But what happens when you doze off to dreamland? You'd be surprised to hear about the things you do in your sleep.
Sure, you know that you drool a little during the night, as evident my the stain on your pillow the next morning. And your partner isn't afraid to tell you that you toss and turn throughout the night. But what else happens when, as far as you know, your body is a state of sleep. Well, a whole lot. From brain cleaning to body twitching, a lot goes down between the sheets at night.
You may think you know what's going on when your logging your Zs, but there is a long list of things you had no idea you did in your sleep. You might be surprised, amused or horrified to learn some of the action going on when you're in a sleeping state of mind.
A 2013 study on the brain during sleep published in Science magazine found that there is some really heavy duty brain cleaning occurs during sleep. The normal clean-up system for the brain, which flushes out toxins, goes into hyper-drive during sleep. According to the Washington Post, the cells of the brain shrink to make room for more cleaning around them, and the same plaques that are found in the brains of Alzheimer's patients are cleaned out at twice the rate of speed than during wakefulness. This is some pretty important action, and explains at least part of the reason why sleep is so crucial for mammals.
You might believe that because you don't remember dreaming, you don't dream. You'd be wrong. Everyone dreams, but Medical Daily notes that people who are anxious or depressed are more likely to remember their dreams, possibly because they have disturbed sleep. Certain medications can also can cause deeper sleep and less recall of dreams.
I always swore that I didn't snore, until my husband enlightened me. Even then, I argued with him. Surely I'd know if I was open-mouthed sawing chainsaws in the wee hours of the night? Apparently not. Snoring Center notes that many people don't know they snore until someone informs them.
REM sleep is also known as paradoxical sleep, because while the brain and other body systems become increasingly active, the muscles become more relaxed, to the point of paralyzation. Specifically, it's the voluntary muscles, the muscles that you have to think about to control movement, become paralyzed, while your heart and breathing go on on their own.
Don't shoot the messenger. According to the Global Healing Center, dust mites are microscopic creatures with the nasty habit of crawling on your body while you sleep and eating your dead skin. Yum. Washing your bedding and clothes in hot water kills dust mites, and vacuuming with a HEPA filter is recommended.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, you wake up between five to 15 times an hour during your nighttime sleep. These wakened periods happen as you shift between different stages of sleep and the awakenings are so brief that we don't remember them.
The twitch that occurs when you head of to dreamland is called the hypnic jerk or hypnagogic jerk, and is the result of your muscles clenching. Although scientists aren't totally sure why this occurs, some speculate it is a left over response to ensure our primate selves didn't fall out of a tree as well fell asleep.