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When we fall asleep, where do we go?

You surely mustn’t have given this a thought before, except for when you’re listening to Billie Eilish of course. Truly, where does sleep take us? Our brain has numerous electromagnetic waves and a gazillion chemical reactions happening every microsecond. From the time you wake up to right before you sleep – the cycle goes on, day in and day out. This cycle is fixated on a core characteristic of human biology, giving us our sleep-wake pattern.

The 1990’s were when the molecular clock inside our cells was discovered, the connective link between the sun and life processes. In today’s time, we’re all juggling how much we rest in order to have productive days but what we need to understand is that it is impossible to squeeze 8 hours of sleep in just 3.

“It seems as if we are now living in a worldwide test of the negative consequences of sleep deprivation.”

Robert Stickgold, Director of Cognition Centre at Harvard Medical School.

One fortunate night of good sleep transcends you into another reality. This reality is a culmination of going through different stages.

STAGE 1: Threshold of slumber

Right before falling asleep, our brain does a quick scan of our most impactful memories. Only the ones that your brain chooses to keep, make it to your subconscious. With absolute absence of light, the pineal gland of the brain starts pumping melatonin, which is a huge cue for systems to align and shut off for rest. Also, the reason for reality becoming hazy and lucid is that our sensory receptors are muffled as we fall asleep.

STAGE 2: Sequence of spindles

It’s not all calmness though, for stage 2 has a sequence of electric sparks that occurs five minutes later in our cerebral cortex. These sparks, a.k.a. the spindles,increase especially when we’re exposed to newness physically or mentally. More the spindles, better the sleep. With lowered core temperature and heartbeat; this process happens in the first 90 minutes of our sleep cycle.

The mind should be given some time to process the event instead of sleeping on an (especially negative) event and turning it into long-term trauma.

STAGE 3: The midnight meal

Sleep is the food for our brain to maintain sanity. This stage is a deep state of coma-like sleep. The body is still recovering from all the physiological stress. It is a process of preserving life rather than that of dreams or memory. With least mental activity and overall recuperation, it’s time for deeper sleep.

STAGE 4: Lights all out

This is where we enter the ultimate stage 4! The waves are so intense that the brain pulls itself out after 30 minutes. This stage explains ‘sleep is not far removed from coma or brain death’. After a 20 minute REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep, a direct transition to stages 3, 2 and 1 happens and we’re back to being awake/aware. With so much going on, you’re lucky if you get to experience a dream or two in this time.

If you’re the curious kind, and like what you just read, Download the Volume app for more on the marvels of the mind.

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