When you think about it, sleeping is actually quite strange, isn’t it? We ideally put aside eight hours each day to effectively power down and recharge.
It would be easy to assume that our bodies aren’t really doing a lot other than resting up while we sleep, however, this is far from the truth.
During the night our bodies are up to all sorts of weird and wonderful things, so we have put together a number of the most interesting.
Because it’s something we have to deal with every morning, we don’t really question it very much, but have you ever stopped to consider why we wake up with a generous amount of gunk in the corner of our eyes every day?
Well, aside from the mythical explanation that the sandman visits us to sprinkle magical sand in our eyes to help us sleep, not many of us actually know why.
The actual reason is that our eyelids are effectively self-cleaning, removing any unwanted bacteria, mucus or debris.
Ophthalmologist Dr Ivan Schwab explains it clearly in this post from the Huffington Post. He says: “Our eyelids close similarly to a zipper, from the cheek side toward the nose. When they do that, they push the tears across the eye, picking up all these different materials along the way.”
Balance Our Hunger
Hunger is something else we all probably don’t worry about too much when asleep. If you think about it, you wouldn’t often last eight hours awake without feeling very hungry, so why doesn’t it bother us when we sleep?
Well, once we nod off, our body begins to regulate our levels of leptin and ghrelin, two hormones which balance out our energy release and hunger.
However, a problem occurs when we don’t get enough sleep. This can throw off the balance of the hormones, enabling a bigger release of one over another. This is the reason we feel particularly hungry the morning after a particularly bad night’s sleep.
While most old sayings tend not to amount to a lot, it turns out there is some truth to getting ‘beauty sleep’.
As we sleep, our bodies go on one big repair mission, part of which is restoring our skin. More skin cells are produced while our skin also slows down its breakdown of proteins. This allows better growth.
Not to be mistaken with sleep paralysis, which is a sleep condition which occurs in some people just after they wake, temporarily paralysis occurs us each night during the heaviest form of sleep, REM.
Otherwise known as “rapid eye movement” this is the deepest part of each sleep cycle and where the majority of our dreams occur. During this stage of sleep, the muscles in our arms and legs essentially become paralysed.
Unlike sleep paralysis, which is very much a condition worth speaking to your doctor about, temporary paralysis is completely natural and is simply something which happens to us all.
Your Kidneys Slow Down
This is certainly one thing which we can all thank our bodies for. The main function of our kidneys is to filter out toxins from the bloodstream and to produce urine.
Once we head off to the land of nod, the amount of filtering done by our kidneys is reduced. This means the there is less urine produced and is the reason we can sleep for such a long time without always waking up needing to go to the toilet.
Exploding Head Syndrome
One of the less helpful things on this list and just as strange as any other, exploding head syndrome acts very similarly to the feeling of falling we all sometimes experience which wakes us up.
Essentially, a person will be suddenly awoken by the sound of an explosion or a flash of light. Of course, nothing has actually happened except the fact that we have been uncomfortably woken.
This phenomenon of being jolted awake is called the hypnic jerk and you can read more about it in another post on our blog by clicking here.