why do we move when we sleep


Rolling over in bed is something we take for granted, yet it appears we know very little about this basic human movement. \”No one that I\’m aware of has specifically researched this,\” says Dr Harriet Hiscock, a paediatric sleep specialist at the
Melbourne. Babies start to roll at about four months, says Hiscock. Before this time \”they don\’t have the coordination to do it and they are simply not strong enough,\” she says. \”There\’s a big innate drive so that they learn to roll so they can get on all fours and start to crawl,\” she says, adding that rolling over is a \”developmental milestone. \” She thinks that rolling over during sleep for adults and children is simply a matter of getting comfortable. \”If you just lie in the same position all night you\’d probably get stiff joints, and problems with the skin,\” she suggests. Dr Peter Roessler, a fellow of the, agrees. \”I think movement while we are asleep is a protective mechanism to prevent problems developing from prolonged pressure such as reduced blood flow to certain parts of the skin,\” he says. When patients are paralysed for a long time, for example in intensive care, they need to be turned regularly to prevent pressure sores, he adds. He thinks unpleasant stimuli from pressure on pain receptors (called nociceptors) initiate a coordinated rolling over response, and this can happen whether we are asleep, or simply lying awake in bed. \”We\’ve all experienced this when sitting in one position. We can tolerate it for a certain length of time and then we have to move. I suspect it\’s probably a similar sort of response even when we are asleep. \” The signals from the nociceptors would travel up the back of the spinal cord to the brain, possibly to the reticular activating system which is important in sleep and wakening, he suggests. Then signals to make movement happen would travel down tracts in the front portion of the spinal cord and go out to the muscles.


People under anaesthesia can\’t roll over because their sensory signals are suppressed, muscle power is diminished and brain activity can\’t be coordinated, he adds. And the most common reason for someone turning over in their sleep is probably their spouse nudging them to stop them snoring, he laughs. So how conscious do you need to be to detect these signals? Hiscock thinks rolling mainly occurs during deep sleep. \”As we go through the night we cycle through alternating phases of light and deep sleep,\” she says. \”Rolling and other movements are not going to happen in the light sleep phase known as rapid eye movement sleep (or REM sleep). \”When we are in [REM] sleep we tend to dream and our body is semi-paralysed, so we can\’t roll over. We think that\’s to stop us acting out our dreams,\” she says. During deep non-REM sleep, the brain has mini \’arousals\’ every six to eight minutes when the sleeper becomes more awake, says Dr Chris Seton, a child sleep physician at Westmead in Sydney. \”Arousals are a normal phenomenon, and everyone does it,\” says Seton. He says arousals are almost invariably associated with some body movement maybe just kicking out a leg, or sometimes, rolling over. \”What we know is that if you have an arousal at the same time for instance, that somebody comes into your bedroom, you will wake up. But if you have an arousal and there\’s no environmental threat happening then you just go back to sleep. \” \”It\’s like an alerting mechanism a monitor,\” he says. \”The arousal is a protective mechanism. The movement doesn\’t do anything it\’s an ancillary event. \” Interestingly he says boys move more than girls when they have an arousal. \”The evolutionary basis of that is that the men were the protectors,\” he says, so they would need to be ready to fight off an intruder perhaps a tiger in the cave.


Now that would be a reason to move! Dr Harriet Hiscock from the ; Dr Peter Roessler from the, were interviewed by Clare Pain. Image Credit: clemenswinkler ) I don t know about you, but when I sleep, the position I fall asleep in is seldom the position I wake up in. As you are well aware, we allPtend to roll around in our beds as wePsleep, which naturally leads to a question: What happens when we sleep that causes a comfortable position to suddenly become uncomfortable, forcing us to roll over, reposition ourselves, or change sides? You would think this question has a simple answer, but the truth is We don t really know. P Dr. Harriet Hiscock a pediatric sleep specialist at the in Melbourne said No one that I m aware of has specifically researched this. She went on to explain that Babies usually start rolling around when they reach four months in age, before which, Hiscock said that they don t have the coordination or the strength to do it. Even though the mechanism hasn t been studied, some doctors have ideas on why this basic human movement takes place. Especially in the modern world, we find ourselves being still, in the same position, for long periods of time while conscious. If you pay attention to your movements, you ll find that you probably move around, shift your body into various inhumanPpositions, stretch a little and let loose. When we are still for long periods of time, we tend to get stiff joints and we ll actually develop pressure-related problems. Dr. Peter Roessler, who is a fellow at the, said, I think movement while we are asleep is a protective mechanism to prevent problems developing from prolonged pressure, such as reduced blood flow to certain parts of the skin. This would help prevent us from developing pressure sores when we sleep.


He believes that the rolling is triggered when our brain receives warning messages from our pain receptors, telling our bodies that we need to check ourselves before we wreck ourselves (biologically speaking, of course). Of course, all of this is preferable to that instance when you re on the brink of fallingPasleep. All of a sudden, your body starts spazzing out, usually when you re asleep in the worst place possible (where people are sure to notice you ve nodded off, like school or church, for instance). Why does THAT happen? Thankfully, we have it covered (kind of). P A hypnic jerk (technically known as a myoclonus and also known as hypnagogic massive jerk, a moyclonic jerk, or a sleep start) is anP so you couldnt even stop it if you tried that jerks a person awake. These twitches from hell usually happen in the beginnings of sleep ( ). Nobody knows why these robbers of sleep occur. There are, as always, some hypothesis to explain them. Its possible sleep starts are a result of the relaxing of muscles. Other theories suggest that, as the body drifts to sleep, the brain interprets various temperature and breathing changes as falling. One of my personal favorites is the theory which says the body doesnt know the difference between falling asleep and dying, so (as the picture says), your brain violently jerks your body to make sure youre still alive and to keep everything functioning. How do you stop, or at least help prevent these things? The same way you cure every other sleeping ailment relaxing bedroom, no caffeine, no strenuous activity, comfortable mattress, and white noise machines could also help. Did you know setting your phone to operate on airplane mode might help you get a better night s sleep? Learn more about it, or share your experiences with it.

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