What do people do when they sleep?


Everything in sleep: regeneration and processing

Our body signals to us when it needs a break and recovery. We get tired, can no longer concentrate, and start to yawn.

A hormone called melatonin is released in the pineal gland of our brain, which prepares the body's functions for sleep and slowly puts us on the back burner. Our body temperature drops by a few tenths of a degree, breathing and pulse slow down, and blood pressure drops.

We also get tired when metabolic products that have accumulated in our body over the course of the day have to be broken down.

Because of inactive

But we are not inactive while sleeping and we do not switch off completely. On the contrary, a highly organized sequence of events in body and mind begins in bed.

Falling asleep takes between five and about 30 minutes. We can never remember the actual moment of falling asleep, it strikes us like lightning. In a split second, the brain releases chemical substances that turn off consciousness.

After that, phases of deep sleep and dreaming alternate approximately every 90 minutes. Our body functions are only immobilized in the deep sleep phases. In the dream phases the brain runs at full speed, the whole body is practically electrified.

Rapid eye movements

Sleep researchers have found that we first fall into deep sleep. The body secretes large amounts of growth hormones that it needs for its regeneration. The immune system is activated, defense cells search for unwanted intruders such as viruses and bacteria and render them harmless.

Measuring instruments in a sleep laboratory show little activity in deep sleep, but muscles can be activated. Sleepwalkers become active during this phase.

After about an hour we switch to the dream phase for the first time, the so-called REM phase (Rapid Eye Movement), in which the eyes move quickly back and forth under the lids. The dream sleep is mainly used for mental relaxation.

In contrast to deep sleep, bodily processes are activated in the dream phase. With the onset of a REM sleep episode, breathing becomes irregular, and pulse and blood pressure also show short-term fluctuations. We are almost awake, but the muscles are paralyzed.

In the dream phase, the day is processed. Our brain is very active now. In the first half of the night we process daily events from professional and private life. This empties memory in the brain that is needed again during the day.

In the second half of the night we often have unreal and bizarre dreams. In dream sleep, the imagination can unfold unhindered. In this phase, areas of the brain that are underutilized during the day are probably trained.

How to make a bed

We can hardly control the processes inside the body while sleeping. However, we can influence the external conditions for our sleep, such as the composition of the bed and mattress, the atmosphere in the bedroom or our lifestyle.

The body itself must first of all be well stored so that restful sleep can even occur. The choice of mattress is very important here. A surface that is too hard damages your shoulders, hips and spine as well as one that is too soft.

It is important that the body is supported by the mattress at the crucial points. That is why it should be point-elastic, i.e. give in or support precisely where it is necessary.

Correct and healthy sleep also requires the ideal pillow. And here the rectangular oblong pillow, as it is already standard in many European countries, takes precedence over the large, square and thick pillow. It is important that the shoulders rest on the mattress and only the head rests on the pillow so that the neck is straight and relaxed.

How Much Sleep is Healthy?

Scientists argue about the question of how much sleep is healthy. However, they all agree that the need for sleep depends on age. Babies therefore need 14 to 17 hours of sleep, adolescents eight to ten hours and adults between seven and nine hours. Nevertheless, one can get by with more and the other with less sleep.

The quality of sleep is also decisive. If we are interrupted several times during sleep, sleep is less restful than if we only get a few hours of sleep, but can sleep through it undisturbed.