The Science of Rest: What Happens When You Sleep

Written by Nectarsleep Editorial Team

Last updated on Sep 08, 2023

Better Sleep Blog
The Science of Rest: What Happens When You Sleep

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When we close our eyes and lie down, we’re clocking out, switching off, shutting down, right? While it may seem like we’re doing a whole lot of nothing when you sleep, the time we spend with our heads on our pillows is actually amazingly active. So, why do we rest the way we do, and what happens when you sleep? We’ve done the tiring work and research into looking what happens when you sleep. Trust us: you may want a lie down after you’ve read all the amazing things your body gets up to while you’re doing nothing more than sleeping on your wonderfully supportive Nectar mattress. Read on and rest up.

The Science of What Happens When You Sleep Makes Humans Unique to Other Animals

Did you know that humans are the only mammals that purposely delay sleep? Think about it—you don’t see your dog putting off having a snooze, do you? There’s good reason for setting yourself a regular bedtime (we’ve spoken about the importance of practicing good sleep hygiene before) and listening to when your body tells you it’s tired, as this is when our brain and body gives us some TLC for all the hard work we’ve been doing in our wakeful hours. Our sleep architecture works around five stages of sleep, and these stages are categorised as NREM (non-rapid eye movement) and REM (rapid eye movement). As we move through these stages of light to deep sleep, our bodies are hard at work making sure that, when we wake, we’re ready to face a whole new day.

Body Processes Are Put on Pause When You Sleep

Ever wondered why, when you find yourself having to nip to the loo regularly throughout the day, you’re not burdened (more often than not) with the need to pee in the night? What happens when you sleep to that urge? That’s because, when we sleep, an anti-diuretic hormone is put to work, controlling our need to pee. In fact, a fair few things are controlled when we sleep. For one, our muscles paralyse—sounds dramatic, hey? Some scientists think this happens so that we don’t physically act out our dreams. Yikes! As we begin to fall asleep, our core temperature drops (our lowest body temperature hits at around 2.30am—handy to note if you find yourself pinching your partner’s blanket in the small hours of the morning). This temperature reduction is a smart signal that tells the body to release melatonin, which affects our sleep/wake cycle. As our body prepares to sleep, our brain gets ready to do send more messages and get a whole lot more work done before we wake. See? There's a lot more going on for what happens when we sleep than you probably realize! That's just the tip of the ice burg.

The Brain is Even More Active

Our brain is actually at its most active when you sleep —not just controlling body functions, but sorting, processing, and sending signals around our body. Our cortisol levels lower (that’s the stress hormone), and our sympathetic nervous system relaxes, which lowers blood pressure. And a number of hormones get to work, including growth hormones, which help us repair and, yes, grow. And when we say repair, we mean a full body MOT: every individual cell in our body gets a once-over. And of course, repair means that our immune system is kept busy at night, too, fighting inflammation, infection, and trauma with the release of protein cytokines. If sending signals wasn’t enough, our brain is also kept busy sorting through our daily “paperwork”, processing new information and logging long-term memories. It’s a whole lot of work for one night, isn’t it? Next time you think about skimping on those eight hours of well-earned rest, you might want to think about the science of sleep—it’s enough to make anyone tired. Give your brain and the body the rest it deserves with a mattress that has your wellbeing and sleep at the very heart of its design. Try a Nectar and feel the difference immediately.