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Many people believe, as many doctors used to, that when we go to sleep our bodies go into a deep rest. However, in the last century scientists have gradually uncovered that this is far from accurate. Our bodies undergo many interesting processes that can only occur in the total darkness of sleep. Some of these are quite intense and not at all very “restful.” However, one thing is certain – sleep is vital to our health and overall well-being. Read on to learn the secrets of what happens when we sleep.
Dreams Optimize Brain Function
Although not fully understood, an interesting by-product of sleep is dreaming. Dreams are shown to improve the learning of new tasks and help to manage stress. A recent 2-week study conducted tests on people who were given a video game to play just before bed. They were then woken up at intervals throughout the night when they were in dream-inducing REM sleep. (Not a very pleasant way to spend a night!) The study found that those who were dreaming about the video game had their score improve the most over time than those who did not. Those who did not dream about the video game did not improve by a wide margin leading researchers to conclude that dreams have an important role to play in learning new skills.
It then makes sense why dreams such as snakes, monsters, or other dangerous situations could have helped people living in the wilderness for so many ages! Some people with specific types of brain damage find that they are no longer able to dream. Those who are more active dreamers have been found to be more creative and successful than those who are not.
Dreams play a larger role in our sleep than we thought. Many things we encounter on a daily basis can play into what we are going to dream about and how vivid they become. In either case, the brain is optimized during sleep, giving us a boost in brain function. This may or may not be a good thing, depending on the dream.
Hormones and Chemicals Secreted
During sleep our bodies release some very important chemicals as part of the regulatory process. The pituitary gland, which is located very near to the center of our brains, is what is responsible for most of the hormones our body creates. Certain hormones are only released at night. For example, testosterone only gets secreted between the hours of 12am and 6am.
These hormones regulate our development as well as muscle-repair and improve brain function. It is believed that this is because the body is most responsive to regenerative processes. The exact reasons are not yet fully understood, but there is certainly a lot more than pleasant dreams going on. Hormones and chemicals that are secreted are secreted from our bodies are beneficial, regardless of what roles they play. Have you ever wondered by your muscles feel better when you wake up, or why you feel like you have better concentration in the mornings?
Chemicals and other hormones secrete even while we’re awake doing our daily activities, but specific ones do so when your body is fast asleep.
While it’s not exactly clear why we sleep, the data is definitely in on its benefits. Those who have trouble sleeping are more susceptible to chronic illness. As we age sleep becomes more and more important. Make sure you keep a bedtime and remove distractions from the bedroom!
Sleep. And get lots of sleep. Your body needs it to function correctly and your physical and mental acumen depend on it. Your body doesn’t just go into “rest” mode, but it’s constantly being worked, which is a good sign because it shows that your body is working properly.
Carol Carter is freelance writer and often writes about sleep study. She also loves to cook, read and at times go for a walk with pet dog.