What Happens When You Fall Asleep?

Have you ever thought about what happens when you fall asleep? Sleeping is a slightly mysterious phenomenon. The human body will go into a deep sleep for hours. However, sleep is not instant. When you lay your head on a pillow the lights do not automatically go out. The body has to switch modes as your body and brain actions change. Sometimes you feel like you can fall asleep in the spot you are standing, but it does not happen that way.

Human bodies sleep in two different states, which are Non-Rapid Eye Movement (NREM) and Rapid Eye Movement (REM). During the states of sleep the body goes through different actions. Temperature changes and body recovery are just two of the actions that occur during sleep states.

Stage N3 sleep; EEG highlighted by red box. Th...

Stage N3 sleep; EEG highlighted by red box. Thirty seconds of deep sleep, here with greater than 50% delta waves. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Let us start with NREM, this state of sleep has four stages. This stage is where you spend most of your night. Have you ever experienced a phone call just when you have fallen asleep? The person calling you asks you if they woke you up during your period of transition. If you answered no it is because you do not realize in your moment of drowsiness that you are asleep because you were awakened so soon. This is stage one. In stage one, the body is in the process of going from awake to sleep. At this point your brain is slowing down. Also, you may start to experience hallucinations like the feel of falling. This stage is around five to ten minutes.

Next is stage two, in this stage, the length of occurrence is about twenty minutes. This is the start of sleep. During this time your body temperature begins to drop. The body also starts to become unaware of its surroundings. Also, your body begins to experience rapid brain activity. This brain activity is called sleep spindles. Have you ever wondered why some people can sleep through anything? Well, sleep spindles are the reason. The wave of activity of spindles are short, about half a second, but if they are frequent, feel pleasure in knowing you are less likely to be awakened by noise.

After stage two comes three, this stage leads us from light sleep into deep sleep. Slow brain waves begin the path to deep sleep. These slow brain waves are called delta waves, which leads us into stage four of our sleep. These two stages are beneficial as the body starts to restore itself. The body’s blood pressure drops and breathing slows down. The body is repairing itself from its day of activity. Muscles relax and the blood supply increases to those muscles. So, as some say you need weights to build muscles, you need sleep to help them to recover and grow. Also during these stages, energy is restored and hormones that are necessary for development are released during these stages so you can be ready for the following day. This concludes the stages of NREM. However, our sleep is not over.

Let Sleeping Children Lie

Let Sleeping Children Lie (Photo credit: stewickie)

There is another state of sleep called Rapid Eye Movement (REM). What do you think happens to your body while you are experiencing the state of REM? Have you ever watched someone while they were sleeping and noticed their eyes were moving fast? If so, they are experiencing REM. This stage is defined by the movement of the eyes. Also, breathing and brain activity is increased. Due to brain activity increasing, dreams occur most during REM, but they can happen at any state of sleep. During REM, your muscles also become extremely relaxed. The body experience paralysis during this sleep state. You may twitch, but, the body remains unmoved. REM sleep can occur as long as an hour.

The stages of sleep do not follow in exact order. Stage one will be followed by stage two, three, and four. After these stages, stage 2 will repeat and then it moves on to REM. Even after REM, NREM starts again with stage two and repeats a few times.

Now that we have a little knowledge of what happens when you fall asleep, what do people experience during sleep. Dreams are an occurrence during sleep and can happen at any stage, as previously mentioned. They happen more often when your brain is more active. People debate often over why we have dreams. There are several theories but no one really can say why the happen. Another experience people have during sleep is sleepwalking. Again, no one knows exactly why it happens, but some theories are that they occur because of anxiety, fatigue, and lack of sleep. Anxiety causes your body to be at unease, therefore it cannot fully relax. What is another experience of sleep? Bedwetting comes to mind, mainly common to young children. Sometimes the brain does not signal that the bladder is full. Also, there are times when a person is having a dream that they are urinating. Most often than not, as an adult the brain triggers that you are dreaming the you are urinating before you have an accident and you will wake up or continue sleeping. These are just a few things of what happens while we sleep.

In conclusion, sleep is a time of rest and recovery. The body rejuvenates its tissues, builds muscles, and increase the strength of the immunity system all the while you lay peacefully having dreams. Sleep does not happen quickly but if you are startled by noise, lay back down and continue your sleep stages. Though, try not to turn on any lights, they may trigger to your brain that you need to be up and moving. So, no lights, hurry back and put your head on your pillow so you can continue your stages of sleep. Thereby, you will be back to recovery so your body will be energized and rejuvenated for the next day. Also, try to go to bed stress free. Listen to some mellow music or use soft scents if they are calming. Furthermore, if you wake and cannot return to sleep, try reading a book. Pick a book you are not thrilled to read. Getting a good night’s sleep is vital to you and some understanding of what happens when you fall asleep will help you to sleep all the better.

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