Sleep is an incredibly important function which helps the body and the mind in many ways: It helps both of them repair, through generating a number of hormones, such as melatonin (the sleep hormone) and the Human Growth hormone or HGH, which is released by the brain to the rest of the body to help it restore itself.
During sleep, the brain also filters and compartments information that is received during the day . Overall, sleep helps with both long-term and short-term memory.
Our ability to sleep just generally helps us perform better.
What happens when you sleep with chronic pain?
It can be tricky for chronic pain sufferers to get to sleep and many say they feel lucky if they reach 5 hours’ sleep.
The correlation between constant pain and difficulties to sleep tends to be a vicious cycle: the pain makes it difficult to sleep but sleep depravation makes it hard for the body to repair itself.
Lack of sleep, according to research, provides us with additional stress, lack of coordination and agility, weight gain or even poor judgement the following day. The last thing that a chronic pain sufferer needs.
Have you ever had a bad night’s sleep before an important day and then feeling you are not quite in the room? This is simply because cutting off at least 2 hours of sleep gives your brain the same ability as if you had consumed two glasses of wine.
We currently know that we need around 8 hours’ sleep each night to feel refreshed. However, sleep is not all about quantity, it is also about quality.
What does the sleep cycle look like?
When we sleep, we go through two big phases called non-REM and REM sleep (REM stands for Rapid eye movement).
Non-REM Sleep involves 3 different stages which can last between 5 and 15 minutes each:
Stage 1: Occurs once you close your eyes. You are in a state of relaxation and ‘drifting’ but you can be easily woken up.
Stage 2: No dreaming as of yet and you can still be easily woken up but your brain starts to transmit short high frequency brain activity which scientists call ‘sleep spindles’ or ‘Sigma waves’ which are meant to help sleep regardless of external factors such as light or noise.
Stage 3: Deep Sleep. Dreaming can possibly occur during this stage but the dreams are always less intense and memorable than during REM sleep. It is during this stage that the body is starting to repair itself.
REM Sleep usually happens around 90 minutes after you first fall asleep. This phase is characterised by random movements of the eye, slow muscle tone throughout the body and the ability to have vivid dreams. As the body finds it hard to regulate its own temperature during REM, we become more sensitive to the outside environment, which will define how long our REM sleep will last. This is why sleeping in a room which isn’t too hot or too cold (usually between 19 and 21C) will help us sleep better.