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The Importance of Sleep


The Science of Sleep: Understanding the Importance and What Happens During Sleep 

Sleep is a vital aspect of our overall health and well-being, yet it is often taken for granted. Adequate sleep is essential for maintaining physical and cognitive function, as well as preventing chronic health conditions.


But what exactly happens during sleep? And why is it so important?

When we sleep, our bodies go through a series of stages that allow for repair and rejuvenation. Each stage is characterised by different patterns of brain activity and physiological changes.

The first stage, known as N1 (Stage 1), is a light sleep where we may experience sudden muscle contractions or twitching.

The second stage, N2 (Stage 2), is a deeper sleep where our heart rate and body temperature decrease.

The third and fourth stages, N3 (Stage 3) and N4 (Stage 4), are known as deep sleep or slow-wave sleep. It is during these stages that the body performs important functions such as tissue growth and repair, and the removal of toxins from the brain.

Finally, there is REM sleep, where the brain is more active and eye movement become more rapid. This stage is characterised by vivid dreaming and increased muscle tone, which prevents the body from acting out dreams.


What are some of the key functions of sleep?

One of the most important functions of sleep is the removal of toxins from the brain, including beta-amyloid. Beta-amyloid is a protein that is associated with the development of Alzheimer's disease. Research has shown that during sleep, the brain's glymphatic system, which is responsible for removing toxins, becomes more active, allowing for the removal of beta-amyloid and other waste products.

In addition to physical repair and rejuvenation, sleep also plays a crucial role in cognitive function. During sleep, the brain is able to consolidate memories and process information, allowing us to perform better when we're awake.

While we sleep, our body also releases growth hormones and other chemicals that help in the repair of our cells and tissues. In the deep sleep stage, our body also release human growth hormone, which is essential for growth and muscle development in children and adolescents, and for muscle repair and maintenance in adults.


By understanding the science of sleep, we can better appreciate the importance of getting adequate, quality sleep each night.
In the next instalment of the sleep series, find out how and why our sleep architecture changes as we age & easy ways to get a more restful night!

Contributing nutritionist Alicia Cooper – DIP-NT, mBANT, CNHC


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