Eli5: What happens in your body when you fall asleep?


Eli5: What happens in your body when you fall asleep?

In: Biology

We often think of sleep as turning off the body. This isn’t entirely true. Sure, some parts are inactivated or slowed down, but other important functions happen.

It can be related to a pit stop in car racing. Using your body (especially your brain) can cause wear and tear. Bi- products of daily activity in your cells that might get in the way or even be harmful to your body build up. Sleep is the time your body fixes things like that.

Your body goes through different cycles that repeat during sleep. Completing the cycle is important to getting a good night’s rest. Waking up in the middle can leave you feeling drowsy. It’s like it the race car ran off before all the bolts got put on the tires. You’d feel the car shake.

Below the ears, not a whole lot changes. Without all the moving we do during the day, we can devote more energy to things like digestion, repair, etc, but the body just keeps on working. As far as what goes on in the brain? We’re not entirely sure. We know we have cycles of different kinds of brain waves, but we’re not really sure what those cycles do

Sleep is an active process. Your brain goes throughs different levels of activity while you are asleep. Memories are reprocessed and neurons are programmed. In programming the neurons and your muscle memory the brain is still sending the signal to your muscles as if you were awake. To prevent you moving around in your sleep, despite the signals being sent by your brain, Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) and glycine are used during your sleep to inhibit your muscles. Where this mechanism fails you get sleepwalking – where you are asleep, dreaming, but you’re walking around because your muscles are no longer being inhibited or sleep paralysis – where you are partially awake, but still dreaming and your muscles are still inhibited.