13 Strange Things That Can Happen to Your Body While You Sleep
Find out why we sleepwalk, sleep talk, and feel like we’re falling when we sleep!
You have crazy dreams
The two main types of sleep that occur are rapid eye movement (REM sleep) and non-rapid eye movement (NREM sleep). “During REM sleep, the stage of sleep most associated with dreaming, there is an increase in the firing rate of most neurons throughout the brain, as compared to non-REM sleep,” according to the Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School. There is more brain activity during REM sleep than when we are awake. Harvard reports that when people are woken up in the middle of REM sleep, they report having vivid dreams. However, people do not report having vivid dreams as frequently when awakened from NREM sleep. Thus, “the pattern of brain activity during REM sleep probably underlies the intense dreaming that occurs during this state.” These are the 9 awesome things your brain does while you sleep.
You feel like you’re falling
These involuntary twitches are called hypnic jerks, and up to 70 percent of people experience them occasionally. No one knows why exactly they occur, but according to the National Sleep Foundation, one theory suggests they happen as a result of a “natural downshifting of the nervous system that occurs as you fall asleep.” Another theory claims that the brain “misinterprets the relaxing of muscles as a sign that you’re actually falling.” Caffeine, stress, and sleep deprivation can increase the frequency of hypnic jerks.
You can sleepwalk
Sleepwalking occurs during the deepest stages of NREM sleep. That’s the part of the sleep cycle that leaves you groggy if you are woken up in the middle of it. Though no one can prove the exact causes of sleepwalking, some scientists argue that sleepwalking occurs when your brain is attempting to directly transition from deep NREM to wakefulness, rather than going through the normal sleep cycle. The National Sleep Foundation notes that that sleepwalking can be caused by stress, depression, alcohol, fever, and sleep-deprivation. Sleepwalking also seems to run in families. These 13 facts about dreams might keep you up at night.
You can sleep talk
Sleep talking, also known as somniloquy, can occur during both the REM and NREM stages of sleep. Though your mouth and vocal chords are usually inactive, a “motor breakthrough” causes them to be momentarily active, which is when you may speak words out loud. Sleep talking can also occur during transition from one stage of sleep to another. While chronic sleep talking is considered to be a sleep disorder, sporadic sleep talking is pretty common.
While you sleep, the muscles of your throat relax and your throat actually becomes narrower. As you breathe, the walls of your throat vibrate. These vibrations lead to the sound of snoring. According to the National Sleep Foundation, “the narrower your airway becomes, the greater the vibration and the louder you snore. Sometimes the walls of the throat collapse completely, creating a condition called apnea (cessation of breathing).” These are 9 sleep apnea symptoms you might be overlooking.
Your kidney function slows
Many physiological activities, including kidney function, slow down when you sleep. In turn, urine production is decreased. This is why you typically don’t have to go in the middle of the night. On the other hand, needing to regularly urinate in the middle of the night could be a symptom of diabetes or other health concerns.
You’re more likely to have gas
You’re more likely to pass gas when you sleep because all of your muscles are relaxed, including your anal sphincter. However, this likely won’t bother you or your partner because…
Your sense of smell is decreased while you sleep
This is why fire alarms were invented, as you can’t properly smell smoke while you’re asleep. Many studies have shown that while noise can wake you up, smells won’t. These are the 11 weird sleep tricks that really do work.
Your muscles are temporarily paralyzed
This temporary paralysis is a good thing. According to Harvard’s sleep medicine division, “Interestingly, during REM sleep muscles in the arms and legs are temporarily paralyzed. This is thought to be a neurological barrier that prevents us from ‘acting out’ our dreams.”
Your heart rate drops
“One of the possible functions of sleep is to give the heart a chance to rest from the constant demands of waking life,” says the Harvard Division of Sleep Medicine. When you rest, your body doesn’t need to work as hard, so your cardiovascular systems slow down, particularly during NREM sleep. These are the 8 simple ways to get smarter while you sleep.
Your temperature drops
When you are awake, a process called thermoregulation controls your body temperatures by shivering, sweating, and changes in blood flow to make sure that your body temperature doesn’t fluctuate too much. However, during sleep your body temperature is reduced by 1 to 2 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s believed that sleep helps your body conserve energy.
Your skin produces more collagen
During sleep, there’s an increase in certain body processes linked to cell repair and growth, including that of the collagen in your skin. This is largely due to an increase in the release of growth hormone, which also stimulates collagen production. No wonder why they call it beauty sleep! This is what dermatologists do to look younger overnight.
You get a little taller
You increase in height because the discs in your spine rehydrate without the weight of your body weight pressing down on them, which is what happens when you stand up. Don’t miss these 7 ways to banish belly bloat while you sleep.