6 Things Your Body Does While You Sleep
The whole point of beauty rest goes far beyond rest—your brain and body are seriously busy prepping for tomorrow while you snooze
We all know that sleep matters. Studies suggest that skimping on shut-eye can increase your risk of colds, make you an emotional mess (guilty!), and even up your susceptibility for serious health conditions like diabetes and heart disease.
But it’s not just the rest part of a good eight hours in the sack that does your body good. While you snooze, your brain is busy, says Jessica Payne, Ph.D., an associate professor at the University of Notre Dame. What you might not realize: Some parts of your brain—especially those involved in learning and processing information and emotions—do more work while you’re asleep than while you’re awake (who knew?!).
Curious what else your mind and body do while you sneak in that much-deserved beauty rest? We were too.
You’re Becoming More Creative
Think about everything your brain has to deal with all day long: You’re “online” all of your waking hours—learning, hearing, and experiencing, says Payne. “This is all active and all incoming—you’re acquiring information. You’d get really glutted if you didn’t have time to go ‘offline’ and process that information.” That’s where shut-eye comes in. While you snooze, your brain goes through everything that happened in your day and figures out where to store it. This kind of processing and restructuring is important because it can lead to creative thinking and problem solving, says Payne. (Ever woken up with a solution to yesterday’s work dilemma? Thank your bed.)
You’re Making Memories
You may have thought that that romantic stroll with your S.O. constituted as making memories. The thing is, in order to properly remember our experiences, we have to actively commit our knowledge and experiences to memory, says Payne. All of this happens while you’re passed out, so that what you learn and go through in life means something, she explains. (But put the phone down before bed! Technology Messes with Your Memory.)
You’re Boosting Your Mood
Life is an emotional experience, says Payne, and “sleep is a built in emotional regulator.” After all, zzz lovers and researchers alike agree that being awake all the time would (literally) be miserable. See, when you snooze, your brain fires up the regions responsible for regulating stressors and emotions—then packages and sorts through those emotions, helping you to better handle them in the future. “If you’re not sleeping regularly, these emotions don’t get properly organized,” says Payne. “That could be why sleep and mood are so clearly linked.” Plus, research shows a link between a lack of shut-eye and mood disorders, like depression.
You’re Slimming Down
“It’s not far off to say that you’ll be fat, lazy, and stupid if you don’t sleep,” says Payne. And while we know shut-eye is vital for energy, our slumber directly impacts the hormones in our bodies that regulate appetite, like ghrelin—which in turn, can impact weight, she adds. Up all night? Your body treats that as a stressor, producing extra stress hormones like cortisol. And excess cortisol, Payne says, can lead to fat stores around your belly area (and belly fat is more dangerous than fat in other parts of your body). (Some people go so far as to say Sleep Is the Most Important Thing for a Better Body.)
You’re Slashing Your Disease Risk
“Sleep is incredibly essential for the immune system,” says Payne. Just like your brain actively helps you commit memories toward knowledge, research also suggests your immune system uses time asleep to “remember” invaders like bacteria that can lead to illness. Levels of some immune system regulators also peak during deep slumber. It’s why we think some people who don’t catch as many zzzs are more susceptible to colds and flus, she says.
You’re Building Muscle
You know rest days matter, but if you take your workouts seriously, you should also take your evenings seriously. “Sleep is key for basic properties of healing and cellular restitution,” says Payne. During deep sleep phases, your body releases human growth hormone, which helps rebuild damaged tissue and contributes to stronger muscles. Research out of Stanford also found that with five to seven weeks of 10 hours of rest a night, athletes increased their speed, accuracy, and reaction times.
10 Explanations For Everyday Things Your Body Does
The human body is an amazing machine that is more complex than any man-made device ever created. While many of the functions it carries out require little explanation, some things it does are more complex. For the most part, people have no idea why their body does these things, but scientists and researchers have investigated them and came up with simple explanations for the baffling everyday functions of our body.
Everyone has hiccuped at some point in their life. However, the involuntary action usually comes and goes relatively quickly for the vast majority of people, meaning it is more of a nuisance than anything else. Although for some, it can become something of an issue. Charles Osborne, for example, had the hiccups for 68 years.
Scientists have never been able to completely understand why people hiccup, but they have proposed several theories. One of the most recent ones comes from Daniel Howes. He suggests that the hiccups may have evolved as a way for infants to expel air from the stomach so that they can more effectively suckle milk. The contraction of the diaphragm causes suction that forces air out of the mouth, allowing the infant to burp itself. Howes points to the fact that only mammals—the only type of animals that suckle milk—get hiccups and that they are much more prevalent in the young.
The appendix has long been considered an organ that does more harm than good. Its function was a mystery, and it has a tendency to cause serious health problems in a number of people. Appendicitis can lead to severe pain, fever, and even death if it is left untreated after the appendix bursts.
In 2007, after years of research, researchers finally discovered what’s believed to be the actual use of the appendix. Rather than simply being a leftover organ from our evolutionary past, it was an important part of the immune system. According to the research team, the appendix provides a safe haven for bacteria that is needed in the gut. When illness or diseases such as dysentery wipe out the bacteria in the gut, the organ allows the bacteria to reenter the digestive system. It essentially keeps a backup of bacteria needed for the immune system to function.
Credit: Science ABC
Every person has experienced being tickled at some point. While it can be pleasant at times, it is usually something that people dislike and try to avoid. This has never stopped people from trying to tickle others, though. That fact, combined with the response to tickling, is something that has perplexed thinkers for thousands of years.
Previously, it had been thought that the reaction might be a panic response, similar to that triggered by a spider crawling on you. But Christine Harris, following numerous experiments, has suggested a more complex answer. According to Harris, tickling may be a system designed to help develop combat skills.
She points to the fact that close family members or friends usually carry out that tickling in much the same way as play fighting. It causes the recipient to convulse and try to break free as quickly as possible, teaching the victim how to get away from an attacker without actually causing them any harm. Meanwhile, the fact that the recipients laugh and smile when being tickled encourages the tickler to carry on the action and to do it more frequently. This increases the value of the action as it is reinforced multiple times.
7. WRINKLED FINGERS AND TOES
Spending a long time in the water will lead to fingers and toes becoming wrinkled. This bodily function has baffled researchers for decades, with very little evidence to say definitively what the cause of the reaction was. A leading theory had been that water caused the skin to swell, leading to the wrinkling effect.
Scientists now believe they have come up with the exact reason. According to a number of researchers, the wrinkling is an evolutionary advantage that helps to increase grip in wet conditions. Experiments showed that those with wrinkled fingers and toes get a better grip on wet objects.
Another study from Newcastle University theorized that the function might have helped our ancestors handle tools in rainy conditions or have steadier footing on a soaked floor, providing an advantage over others who did not get wrinkly fingers and toes from water.
6. LUMP IN YOUR THROAT
Ever been really sad and felt a lump in your throat even though you knew for a fact that there’s nothing physically there? That’s a pretty common occurrence that happens to people when they get bad news or are on the verge of crying.
The “lump in the throat” sensation is a consequence of the fight-or-flight response inbuilt in humans, which is induced when a person is put in danger or under intense stress. In these emotional situations, the body pumps blood and oxygen to the brain and muscles to allow it to react faster. This has the added effect of causing the heart to pump harder and for breathing to become more frequent. To facilitate this, vocal chords, known as the “glottis,” expand to allow more air to pass through the throat. However, when a person tries to swallow, the glottis need to close. The muscles effectively work against each other, causing the “lump” sensation.
5, PHANTOM VIBRATION SYMPTOMS
If you use a smartphone or another electronic device that comes with a vibrate function, you will probably have experienced the “phantom vibration syndrome.” Essentially, you feel a vibration in your pocket, take out the phone, and see that your phone is dark. Nothing has happened to cause the device to vibrate, and yet you could clearly feel it.
In 2010, a study found that 68 percent of people using such devices experience these phantom vibrationson a regular basis. Possible explanations include the brain misinterpreting other sensory information, such as a slight movement in clothing, as vibration as it anticipates incoming communication through the device.
4. SHIVER DOWN THE SPINE
Shivers down the spine, and the goosebumps that traditionally accompany them, happen in all kinds of situations. They usually occur during stressful moments, such as when a person is in danger. This affects the hypothalamus, the section of the brain that controls certain nervous system functions. It releases large amounts of adrenaline to help the body prepare to react to the situation. This causes muscles to contract and hair to stand on end, leading to goosebumps. The same reaction happens when a person feels intense emotions such as love, happiness, or shock. Music causes shivers down the spine because it induces strong emotions in humans, causing the brain to release adrenaline.
The act of yawning is so contagious that even reading about it can cause a person to yawn, but there has been much debate over what exactly causes it. One competing theory was that yawning allows the body to take in more oxygen for stressful events that are about to occur, like in sports, to make the body more alert. Other theories suggested that it may be a way to communicate boredom and tiredness and to pump vital fluid around the body.
In 2014, researchers came up with a new theory that unified many of the contradictory elements of yawning to give a complete explanation. According to the study, yawning is the body’s way of attempting to cool down the brain. The yawn takes cold air in and increases blood flow around the brain, carrying away excess heat. This theory also explains why so many situations cause yawning. The brain heats up in stressful situations and before exercise; it also increases in temperature as people grow tired. Yawns fight boredom by allowing the brain to be more alert.
2. ALCOHOL-INDUCED BLACKOUTS
It is a fairly common occurrence for those who have drunk a large amount of alcohol to be unable to remember parts of a night out (or the entire event). While these blackouts can happen with other drugs, they happen most frequently with alcohol.
Studies have shown that alcohol prevents the brain from being able to transfer short-term memory to long-term memory, essentially stopping people from remembering recent events. This is because alcohol stops receptors in the hippocampus from releasing glutamate. This prevents neurons from being able to communicate with each other normally, blocking the transfer of memory. As such, the person becomes unable to create new memories. The memory can still exist somewhere in the brain, though, which explains why people can be reminded of an event from the previous night and then suddenly remember all about it.
Seasickness, and other types of motion sickness, is a set of symptoms experienced by a large amount of people when they are traveling in vehicles such as ships and cars. The symptoms can include vomiting and dizziness.
It happens because of a disconnect between what a person feels and sees. On a rocking boat, for example, the body senses the motion through the inner ear but cannot see the movement, as the entire boat appears to be still. This causes the brain to receive conflicting information. This triggers a psychological defense mechanism, because the most likely cause of a conflict between the senses are hallucinations brought about by poison. The nausea and vomiting are the body’s way of trying to get rid of the toxins it thinks are affecting it.
While medication and electronic devices can prevent seasickness, it can also be mitigated by looking at the horizon on a boat or out of the window in a car. This gives the eyes a visual cue to sense the motion, and so the brain doesn’t receive confusing information.
4 Bizarre Things Your Body Does While You Sleep
If you think the weirdest thing that can happen to you while you’re sleeping is an unsettling dream, think again. We know more about sleep today than ever before, but exactly what your body goes through during sleep is still unknown and made all the more mysterious by oddball things your body can do after bedtime. Disclaimer: If you experience anything listed below to a distressing degree, bring it to the attention of a healthcare professional!
EXPLODING HEAD SYNDROME
Credit: I Heart Intelligence
Don’t worry—this isn’t nearly as painful as it sounds. A small percentage of people, typically over 50, sometimes hear a loud, imagined noise when they’re falling asleep or waking up. Imagine being on the precipice of sleep and suddenly hearing a gunshot or a thunderclap insider your head. This condition is benign and painless, but can be frightening. It’s unclear what causes it, but it seems to be made worse by stress and irregular sleep schedules.
Practically everybody has experienced that sudden feeling of falling when they’re about to drift off. This involuntary twitch is known as a “hypnic jerk,” and though it’s not clear exactly what’s behind it, scientists think that it has something to do with your body adjusting to changes in muscle tone that occur as you transition to sleep. They’re nothing to worry about and seem to occur virtually at random in healthy people, but there’s some evidence that anxiety, caffeine, and an irregular sleep schedule can make them more common.
Credit: World of Lucid Dreaming
Muscle paralysis is a normal part of sleep—it’s nature’s way of preventing you from acting out your dreams! However, the body doesn’t always move smoothly through the stages of sleep. Some people experience sleep paralysis, a terrifying phenomenon where you “wake up” conscious but unable to move. What’s happening here is that your mind wakes up before your muscles do. Sleep paralysis is typically accompanied by vivid hallucinations, and sometimes, a sense of choking or pressure on the chest. If you experience this regularly, you may also be suffering from narcolepsy, so frequent sleep paralysis is definitely worth a conversation with your doctor.
SLEEP WALKING, SLEEP TALKING, SLEEP DRIVING….
Credit: Health Enews
People often think of sleepwalkers wandering around like zombies, and while that’s certainly common, the reality is that people are capable of shockingly complex motor movements while asleep, like cooking and even driving—sometimes for long distances. Regular sleepwalkers should take steps to ensure a safe sleep environment, like putting away sharp objects and locking doors and windows, as well as considering using medication or other forms of sleep therapy.
Humans have five vital organs that are essential for survival. These are the brain, heart, kidneys, liver and lungs.
Brain Credit: 123RF Stock Photos
The human brain is the body’s control center, receiving and sending signals to other organs through the nervous system and through secreted hormones. It is responsible for our thoughts, feelings, memory storage and general perception of the world.
Heart Credit: commons.wikimedia.org
The human heart is a responsible for pumping blood throughout our body.
Credit: Urology Care Foundation
The job of the kidneys is to remove waste and extra fluid from the blood. The kidneys take urea out of the blood and combine it with water and other substances to make urine.
Liver Credit: WebMD
The liver has many functions, including detoxifying of harmful chemicals, breakdown of drugs, filtering of blood, secretion of bile and production of blood-clotting proteins.
Lungs Credit: WebMD
The lungs are responsible for removing oxygen from the air we breathe and transferring it to our blood where it can be sent to our cells. The lungs also remove carbon dioxide, which we exhale.
- The human body contains nearly 100 trillion cells.
- There are at least 10 times as many bacteria in the human body as cells.
- The average adult takes over 20,000 breaths a day.
- Each day, the kidneys process about 200 quarts (50 gallons) of blood to filter out about 2 quarts of waste and water
- Adults excrete about a quarter and a half (1.42 liters) of urine each day.
- The human brain contains about 100 billion nerve cells
- Water makes up more than 50 percent of the average adult’s body weight