Sleep cycles: what happens when you sleep?
As you fall asleep, your body enters two key phases. The first phase that your body enters is known as non-rapid eye movement (non-REM) sleep. During non-REM sleep, your mind and circulation begin to slow down. As this happens, your heart rate and blood pressure gradually fall. Your muscles remain relaxed in non-REM sleep, but you might still move around in your bed.
According to Harvard Health, after around 45 minutes your sleep phase shifts into the rapid eye movement (REM) sleep phase. At this point, your eyes remain shut. However, they still move around rapidly in different directions under your eyelids.
When your body enters the REM sleep phase, your muscles do not move at all. Harvard Health states that your breathing becomes slower. A brief pause in your breathing can occur. Your heart rate and blood pressure can also fluctuate, switching between low to high. After around 30 to 45 minutes, your sleep cycle returns to non-REM sleep. Your body will continue to switch between these phases throughout your sleep.
Harvard Health states that there are usually four to six sleep cycles of non-REM and REM in a single night of sleep. Each sleep cycle can last from 90 to 110 minutes.
How much sleep do I need?
A common question that people ask is: “How much sleep do I need?” The NHS recommends that adults have six to nine hours of sleep every night. But children require more sleep than adults.
The NHS advises that babies under the age of one have 12 to 16 hours of sleep – this includes naps. The recommended amount of sleep for children aged between three to five-years-old is 10 to 13 hours of sleep every night including naps. For children aged six to 12-years-old, the recommended amount of sleep is nine to 12 hours of sleep every night. If you’re a teenager, you should aim for at least eight to 10 hours of sleep every night.
How does sleep deprivation affect joint pain?Joint pain can disrupt your sleep and, in turn, lead to an increased sensitivity to pain. This happens because lack of sleep can sometimes interfere with your brain’s perception of pain. This vicious cycle of chronic pain and sleep deprivation is known as painsomnia.
The BMJ reveals that disrupted sleep and the sleep deprivation that follows are closely associated with musculoskeletal pain. A study published by the US National Library of Medicine identifies that sleep deprivation can worsen fatigue, depression and pain in people with joint pain conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis.
If you suffer from sleep deprivation, you might find you’re more irritable, moody and have difficulty concentrating. Disrupted sleep can have serious health consequences. Sleep deprivation can lead to an increase in stress hormone levels and can cause you to develop an irregular heartbeat.
How can sleep help joint pain?
A good night’s sleep can help you manage your pain better by reducing your sensitivity to pain. According to the NHS, during your sleep, your body builds and repairs itself by creating new tissue. Regular sleep can boost your energy levels and immune system, which allows your body to recover from illnesses. Sleep supports your cognitive development by helping your brain store memories and create new ideas. Your mood and mental wellbeing are also connected to a good night’s sleep. Sleep deprivation can lead to mental health conditions, such as depression and anxiety.