Heal While You Sleep – Adults

Heal While You SleepHave you ever truly thought about how magnificently your body is “made”? Your body system is designed to work in harmony and to heal while you sleep. Imagine that!

“Sleep services all aspects of our body in one way or another: molecular, energy balance, as well as intellectual function, alertness and mood,” says Dr. Merrill Mitler, a sleep expert and neuroscientist at the National Institutes of Health.

Today we’re going to look at how our bodies heal during sleep, and at what point healing and rejuvenation, or restoration of our bodies occur.

Two Types of Sleep (REM, NREM) REM and Four NREM sleep stages

As we learned in one of my recent articles, “Sleep Patterns for Adults – What’s Normal?“, there are two types of sleep, REM and NREM. Rapid-eye-movement sleep and non-rapid-eye-movement sleep. Healing and body restoration happens in both types of sleep.

There is one stage of REM sleep, while there are three stages, stage 1, stage 2, stage 3, or three levels of NREM sleep, as you see in the diagram to the right, “Sleep Stages – REM, NREM”.

Several cycles of these stages will occupy our sleep period, which is our seven to eight hours of sleep, as seen in the diagram below, “Stages of a Normal Sleep Cycle.”

  • REM Sleep

During REM sleep, our brain is almost as active as it is when we are awake, however, our closed eyes are in a rapid-eye-movement state. In this phase of sleep, breathing can become fast and irregular, and our blood pressure increases as we transition from NREM to REM sleep when we’re preparing to awaken.

Rapid-eye-movement (REM) sleep occurs in cycles of about 90-120 minutes throughout the night, and accounts for up to 20-25% of total sleep time for adults. REM sleep dominates the latter half of the night, or sleep period, especially the hours before waking.

REM sleep occurrences, the first of which may last only one to five minutes, generally become longer through the night, as seen in the diagram below. Stages of A Normal Sleep Cycle

What parts of our bodies are healed or restored during REM sleep?

Our REM sleep supports daytime functions by helping restore energy to the brain and body. REM sleep is the most important stage of sleep for memory, for infants through adulthood, as discussed in my article, “How Do Babies Sleep? 5 Fascinating Facts to Know“, and enhances learning and consolidates new information we’ve learned. REM sleep is also vital for emotional health.

  • NREM Sleep

During a typical night, stage 3 of the non-rapid-eye-movement (NREM) sleep, occupies less time in the second cycle than the first cycle and may disappear altogether from later cycles. Two Types of Sleep, REM, NREM Note that as the night progresses, sleep cycles do not repeat in stage order as you can see by the diagram directly above.

Our NREM sleep accounts for 40% of total sleep time. During this phase our blood pressure drops and our breathing becomes deeper and slower.

What parts of our bodies are healed or restored during NREM sleep?

Our NREM, Stage 3 sleep, our deepest level of sleep, is essential for muscle recovery and for restoring the body. It is our healing sleep.

Our brain is resting with very little activity, so the blood supply available to our muscles increases, delivering extra amounts of oxygen and nutrients which promote their healing and growth. Muscles and tissues are rejuvenated during this phase of sleep.

Hormones for Optimal Health

When it comes to motives for getting a good night’s sleep, we don’t usually think about our body’s hormones, but the human body secretes and circulates some 50 different hormones, which are released into the bloodstream.

Sleep allows many of our hormones to replenish, so we have the optimal energy, immunity, appetite and coping ability to face the day’s highs and lows.

Hormones for Growth and Repair

During sleep, hormones travel through our bloodstreams for tissue growth and repair

When we sleep, our bodies restore and repair various functions and replenish hormones to a healthy level.

During sleep, several of the body’s hormones enter the blood system to circulate throughout the body and activate target cells. These include growth hormones (GH), which are essential for growth and tissue repair.

GH stimulate protein synthesis, which is when cells make proteins, and increase fat breakdown to provide the energy necessary for tissue growth.

At the onset of deep sleep, or stage 3 NREM sleep, our growth hormones, stimulate the growth of essentially all tissues of the body, including bone. Growth hormone functions to regulate body composition, body fluids, muscle, mental function, and possibly heart function.

Sleep During Surgery Recovery

Below are four benefits of a consistent good night’s sleep during recovering from surgery.

  • Promotes hormones for tissue growth

When we close your eyes and fall asleep, our brains can attend to other issues within our body. If there are areas that need to heal, the brain can trigger the release of hormones that encourage tissue growth to repair blood vessels. This helps wounds to heal faster, but also restores sore or damaged muscles.

While we sleep, our bodies can make more white blood cells that can attack viruses and bacteria that can hinder the healing process. Heal While You Sleep

Our immune systems rely on adequate sleep to be able to fight harmful substances. When we don’t get enough sleep, our immune system is not able to properly protect the body from infection.

  • Gives the body a break

When we sleep, there are fewer demands made on our heart. Our blood pressures will drop and our hearts will be able to take a break. Sleep also causes the body to release hormones that can slow breathing, and relax other muscles in the body. This process can reduce inflammation and assist with healing.

  • Provides an energy boost

When we sleep, the demand for calories is decreased, so our bodies are able to replenish and be ready for action when we awake. Interestingly, when we sleep, the level of the hormones that make us feel hungry or full fluctuates. If we don’t get enough sleep, our hunger hormone levels, known as ghrelin, go up and our “full” hormone levels, or leptin, go down. So poor sleep patterns can lead to overeating and eventual obesity. It is best to let our bodies keep everything in proper alignment with a good night’s sleep.

  • Helps with a positive attitude

When we are awake, there are many demands on our bodies and our brains. These demands decrease dramatically when we go to sleep. Our bodies and minds can focus on restorative tasks and get a break.

When we awake after a good night’s sleep, hormone levels, energy levels and stress levels have all been adjusted for a more positive start to the day. During sleep, the body is refreshed and more prepared to face the challenges of a new day instead of feeling defeated and stressed. This positive mood can also boost recovery outcomes.

Sleep During Injury Recovery

You’ve probably also heard how sleep is important for injury recovery. People often fail to think about the importance of sleep as part of an injury recovery process. Sleep Helps Recover From Injury

Because our muscles and tissues go through a repair and rejuvenation process as we sleep, if we’re not getting a consistently sufficient amounts of sleep each night, it’s going to be harder for our bodies to bounce back from an injury.

The amount of sleep needed per night varies from person to person, but in general, most adults should aim to sleep somewhere between seven and nine hours each night.

  • Increased blood flow to Injury

One of the reasons why sleep is so important to proper injury recovery is because as we fall into the deeper stages of sleep, our muscles will receive an increase in blood flow, which brings along oxygen and nutrients that help recover and repair muscles and regenerate cells.

  • Hormones

As we read earlier in this article, hormones play an important role in injury recovery too. When the body enters its deep sleep stage, non-rapid-eye-movement (NREM) sleep, the pituitary gland releases growth hormones that stimulate muscle repair and growth. When the body doesn’t get enough sleep, the secretion of this growth hormone declines, and it can become harder for your body to recover from injuries.

The hormone prolactin, which helps regulate inflammation, is also released while sleeping. If we don’t get enough sleep, we’re more likely to experience inflammation in the body, which can make injury recovery more difficult, while also putting us at risk of further injury.

In Summary

We can see from this article just how amazing that during sleep, our brains tell our hormones to secrete the necessary chemicals to the “needy” cells of our bodies for healing. And how neat that even during the lightest stage of sleep, our REM, rapid-eye-movement sleep, our bodies are healing and being rejuvenated.

What I’ve learned from doing research for writing this post: I’ve really enjoyed my research for writing this article about how we heal while we sleep. I didn’t realize how much our bodies undergo daily healing during sleep, whether it’s the day-to-day rejuvenation of our bodies, or the healing of injuries or of surgery.

Thank you for joining me, and I invite you back again to continue to grow with me in this topic of sleep. Together, as I add more and more research to my site, we will be better equipped to make good sleep choices and decisions that will increase our well-being and our quality of life.

As I close, I welcome your thoughts, your needs, or your suggestions regarding sleep as you read my articles. Please leave a note in the comment areas, as I would love to hear from you.

‘Happy Deep Sleep’, and “see” you again soon! Bye for now. Joanie 77 X 77

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10 thoughts on “Heal While You Sleep – Adults”

  1. Hi Joanie,

    I’m really glad that you mentioned how much you’ve learned from researching this article.

    I think many of us take sleep for granted, but as you say this is mainly when the body recovers, develops, grows and rejuvinates itself.

    In fact, a lack of deep sleep or REM sleep (or any other part of the sleep cycle for that matter) can have grave consequences for both our mental and physical wellbeing.

    Fantastic read as always and keep up the great work.

    Your Friend

    • Hey Partha, it’s great to have you back, my friend. I’m honored that you’re here.

      Yes, I agree that we often take sleep for granted and not treat it as priority in our lives. Like you say, the consequences of poor sleep greatly affect our mental and physical well being.

      Join us again, as we continue to explore the many ways we can increase our quality of sleep.


  2. Wonderfully written and thorough article! I use to suffer from poor sleep and it contributed to SO many health issues IE: anxiety, poor mood, weight gain, fibromyalgia symptoms worsening, brain fog, and hypertension just to name a few. I never realized that both REM and NREM were so important until I read this article. Thanks for this info!

    • Thanks for stopping by, Melissa.

      I’m sorry to hear that your poor sleep contributed to so many health issues. I would love to hear how you overcame those issues, whether through natural remedies, or through a conscious effort of creating a new sleep routine.

      May you continue to keep your body healthy through consistent quality sleep.

  3. Thank you for sharing Heal While You Sleep. You know I just read that the majority of people rarely get enough deep quality sleep. So in your opinion how would this affect our healing, I am just wondering if that is why some of us heal quicker than others from the same surgeries?


    • Hello Jeff, hey, thanks for reading.

      You’re right, people rarely get a consistent and good quality sleep. I know for me, it takes preparing and planning for a good night’s sleep until my routine becomes a habit.

      I like your observation and agree with you, Jeff, that some people heal quicker than others during an illness or after surgery. Two significant factors are due to getting a consistent good night’s sleep with good rests in between, and having a strong immunity, which can also be nurtured with quality sleep.

      Join us here again. Take care,

  4. I really enjoyed this informative article on deep sleep healing and never realised that growth hormones or those that fight inflammation are released. I think I usually achieve about 7 hours sleep, but sometimes wake up, then fall asleep again. It’s so true that a good nights sleep makes you wake feeling refreshed and in a positive mood:)

    • Hi Kathy, thank you for your kind reply. I’m glad you enjoyed the article.

      I’m happy to hear that you get at least 7 hours of sleep. We all need to make our daily sleep a priority and get enough daily sleep of between seven to nine hours nightly.

      Take care, and ‘happy deep sleep’.

  5. Hi Joanie,
    I found this topic really interesting. I knew good sleep was beneficial for the body to rest and cleansing but I had no idea it was doing all of those other things. I also did not realise REM sleep was so close to waking. I understand so much more about the benefits and the reasons I feel different if I am woken at different stages unexpectedly. Thanks for sharing this,

    • Thank you for visiting, Chrissie. I’m glad you found the article interesting, and it sounds like you learned a lot also.

      Please come back to visit soon, as I share some more of my research with you.

      Happy sleeping,


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