10 Bizarre Things Your Body Does While You Sleep


By: , – Robin Donovan, Health Writer
10/28/2013 5:00 AM   :  14 comments   :  198,984 Views

See More: sleep, relaxation,
We tend to think of sleep as restful, inactive and quiet. By while you're zoning out, your body is tuned in, doing everything from piecing together dreams to slowing down your kidneys--and much more that you might not expect!

  1. Paralyzes You
    REM, which stands for "rapid eye movement" is the deepest phase of sleep. When you vividly recall a dream, it likely occurred during a REM cycle. In REM stages, muscles in our arms and legs are temporarily paralyzed while we sleep.
    This paralysis is normal, and it's not same as sleep paralysis, which occurs for a few seconds or minutes after you awaken (or, rarely, just before you fall asleep). In this disorder, the normal paralysis that happens during sleep holds on for a few scary moments after you wake up. If you experience this, check with your physician; it could be a symptom of narcolepsy.
  2. Jerks You Awake
    It may feel like you're falling or it may feel like you've been jolted awake, but hypnic jerks (sometimes called hypnagogic jerks) are a natural and common part of falling asleep. This phenomenon causes your limbs to jerk, perhaps because your body is preparing for the changes that take place during sleep, or perhaps because your body misinterprets the signs of impending sleep as falling--and thus jerks you in a misguided effort to stay upright. Scientists don't agree on what exactly causes hypnic jerks, but they're typically harmless.
  3. Moves Your Eyes
    As you sleep, you experience five phases of sleep, with REM as the last and most active phase. Once you complete a REM cycle, you'll start the first phase anew. Seventy to 90 minutes after you fall asleep, you should be in REM sleep, and you'll spend about 20 percent of your time sleeping in this stage. During REM sleep, our eyes dart quickly back and forth, but we typically have no memory of this (other than memories of dreams that often happen in this phase).
  4. Produces Human Growth Hormone
    Human growth hormone, or hgH, helps muscles, bone and other tissues regenerate. The helpful hormone is released during sleep, especially its deepest stages, and is thought to be prompted by low blood glucose levels present during sleep, among other factors. So, there is some science behind the concept of beauty sleep!
  5. Narrows Your Throat
    As you sleep, your breathing changes and your throat naturally narrows a bit as your muscles relax. If you've experienced a partner who snores noisily, you know what it sounds like when the throat becomes a bit too narrow. (Of course, snoring can have many causes, including a stuffy nose or tonsil issues.) Worse, the airway can close completely, causing sleep apnea.
  6. Grinds Your Teeth
    Bruxism (teeth clenching or grinding) happens to many people during sleep. It may be exacerbated by stress or a misaligned jaw, but research hasn't pinpointed the reason that some people grind only rarely (or never), while others end up with cracked or worn teeth and sore jaw muscles.
  7. Slows Down Your Kidneys
    Kidneys normally function to filter toxins out of the bloodstream and to produce urine. As you sleep, the filtering action of these organs slows, so that less urine is produced. (That's the reason your urine is usually so dark the first time you pee in the morning.)
  8.  Makes Up Stories
    If you've awoken after a vivid dream, you know the vague unease of wondering if it was real--or why your mind produced that crazy mishmash of a story to begin with. Despite much research into dreaming and many hypotheses about why we dream and what dreams mean, the nuts and bolts of this everyday happening are still a mystery. Scientists have not yet figured out why we dream as we do, or found a proven process that would explain the content of our dreams.
  9. Creates an Explosion
    It's rare, but some people who experience exploding head syndrome hear a loud crash or bang, almost like a gunshot, just as they're drifting off to sleep. It's usually painless, but frightening, and tends to occur in adults over 50.
  10. Turns You into a Chatterbox
    It's more common in children than adults and in men than women, but talking in your sleep happens to about 5 percent of us. Dubbed "somniloquy," sleep talking is technically a sleep disorder, but may not bother you at all. In fact, you may not even realize you're doing it. Like dreaming, somniloquy has yet to be explained, and can occur in any stage of sleep. When you're sleeping lightly, your words will be easier to hear, and vice versa. Talking in your sleep can be sparked by episodes of stress, depression and illness, or occur alongside other sleep issues, such as sleep apnea.

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  • 14
    #11. Your body hogs all of the blankets - 11/10/2015   7:15:37 PM
    Really good article. I am a sleeptalker (hubby and daughter get a kick out of it!) and it was interesting to see the commonalities of people who sleep chatter. - 9/20/2015   1:45:33 PM
    that is interesting - 6/9/2015   1:51:05 PM
    very interesting - 3/26/2015   10:33:39 PM
  • 10
    interesting article. i knew about a few of them but the exploding head syndrome is WOW! - 8/3/2014   6:17:32 PM
    You left out sleep walking. I used to do that a lot when I was younger and would wake up in some strange places (like our back porch!) - 5/8/2014   3:18:38 PM
  • 8
    I have weird out of body dreams. Very disturbing and causes me a lot of stress the next day. - 5/7/2014   9:08:45 PM
  • 7
    I have never heard of hypnic jerks before, but I had to laugh remembering an experience I had with one. Of course I've jerked awake just before falling over a bridge or something in dreams many times over the years. But several years ago I was in the hospital for a week after a surgery and one night shortly after falling asleep I jerked awake a couple times just after falling asleep. I'm not sure why he came in, but a young male nurse came into my room and I told him about it. The other young male nurse on duty must have heard us talking and came in. I think they were bored, so they kind of leaned back against the wall to chat for a minute. The explanation one of them gave was that I was having an out of body experience! I know he was kidding, but he continued to embelish his story a little and we all had a good laugh. - 5/7/2014   8:37:44 PM
  • 6
    Wow, exploding head syndrome... who knew?! - 5/7/2014   2:51:30 PM
  • 5
    What then does your body do , say if you have Sleep Apnea, restless leg syndrome and other disorders. I know I must be moving when I have restless leg syndrome so how is this possible for me when I am suppose to be paralyzed all that time ?? - 1/30/2014   6:03:40 PM
    Great blog. I don't like alot of cover on me. - 10/30/2013   11:24:27 PM
  • 3
    Already knew about temperature dropping, I get this even when I 'snooze'. I say snooze n not nap as my body gets too hyped if I try to do a power nap n then it just doesn't happen n if it does it's just easier to acknowledge 1-2 hrs are going to go missing n I absolutely have to have covers over my legs at least or when I wake I'm shivering - even in summer - 10/30/2013   5:36:03 AM
  • 2
    More motivation for me to get enough sleep. - 10/28/2013   11:05:05 PM
  • 1
    There is a lot of interesting research happening around sleep right now. I find what happens in our bodies and brains when we sleep to be very fascinating. Two books that goes into detail about sleep that you might find interesting are Dreamland by David K. Randall and The Secret World of Sleep by Penelope A. Lewis. - 10/28/2013   4:21:35 PM

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