What Happens During Sleep?

Wednesday, October 14th, 2015, 5:08 pm

Sleep is a crucial part of our lives and sleep that is interrupted by untreated obstructive sleep apnea can have devastating health consequences. But what really happens during sleep?

Sleep is actually pretty complicated – a lot is going on while we are passed out in our beds. Scientists divide sleep into stages that they track using brain waves. These stages get repeated as many as 5 times each night. The amount of time spent in each stage can vary but most of the deep sleep takes place earlier in the night and more REM sleep (or dreaming sleep) during the second part of the night.

Stage 1 – a light sleep where you may experience sudden muscle contractions (that jerking awake feeling) and you can easily be woken.

Stage 2 – a deeper stage of sleep. Your muscles relax, heart rate slows, breathing becomes slower and your body temperature lowers.

Stage 3 – a deep stage of sleep, also called “delta-wave” sleep. It is very hard to wake up and if you do you may feel confused for a few minutes. Some people may walk or talk in their sleep. The heart rate and blood pressure have dropped and there is no eye movement or muscle activity.

Stage 4 – REM sleep (Rapid Eye Movement) is where dreams happen. Your muscles are paralyzed so you won’t act on your dreams. Breathing is shallow and the eyes jerk rapidly. Brain waves increase in activity to levels similar to those when you are awake.

For patients with obstructive sleep apnea all of these stages of sleep are disrupted. Each time the sleeper stops breathing they briefly waken with a gasp to begin breathing again. The sleeper doesn’t remember this but they do know they feel lousy in the morning.

Treating obstructive sleep apnea using an oral appliance is a comfortable and highly effective way of keeping the airway open throughout the night and getting a complete night of restful sleep.

Find out more about treating obstructive sleep apnea using oral appliances by contacting Wilbanks Smile Center in Toccoa, GA today at 706-391-8777.

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