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1. During the night, we cycle through 90-minute sleep cycles. 75% of our time sleeping is spent in the Non-Rapid Eye Movement (NREM) stage and 25% is spent in the Rapid Eye Movement (REM) stage. 

2. Both NREM and REM are important. NREM sleep is when we recover our energy levels, when our nervous system recovers and regenerates, and when our tissues are repaired. REM sleep is when we establish new connections between neurons in the brain.

3. Sleeping better has endless benefits. It decreases our risk of a heart attack, improves our immune system, helps manage chronic pain, makes us smarter, helps us lose fat, helps us recover faster from training, and can even help us survive cancer. 

“Society is learning how important sleep is and how dangerous sleep deprivation is. We’re teaching our players: Sleep is a weapon.” – Sam Ramsden, Director of Player Health & Performance, Seattle Seahawks.

The foundation of human health and performance is sleeping soundly. To put it quite simply: a better life is possible with better sleep.

What is Sleep?

People often think of sleep as a time of rest where the body and mind shut down. It is true that it’s a dormant state when the activity of our brain’s cortex reduces by 40%. But sleep is not a passive process. While you’re asleep, there is a lot going on to help you recover, restore and rebuild your body and brain. Sleep is a highly active metabolic process that helps to optimize our brain structure, repair damaged cells, and restore energy levels.

Each night, we cycle through different stages of sleep in approximately 90 minute cycles. Seventy-five percent of our night’s sleep is in the Non-Rapid Eye Movement (NREM) stage where our body and muscles relax, temperature and blood pressure drops, heart rate and breath rate come down, and cells and tissues grow and repair. The other 25% is called the rapid eye movement (REM) stage wherein our brain is active, energy is supplied to our body, and our eyes dart back and forth. Both NREM and REM are critical for the optimal recovery and regeneration of our bodies and our brains.

NREM sleep is when we recover our energy levels and when our nervous system (brain, spinal cord and nerves that connect to muscles and organs) recovers and regenerates. During NREM sleep, anabolic hormones are released that repair tissues and stabilize our energy levels. REM sleep is equally important, as it is when we establish new connections between neurons in the brain. That means that the learning that happens during the day becomes embedded and stored in our memory overnight. One of the many downsides to poor or inadequate sleep is that it makes it hard to retain what we learn – we simply lose some of the new stuff we picked up during the day.

Sleep and Your Health

Optimal health starts with sleep. You can set yourself up for success in all aspects of your life by improving your sleep. Sleeping better decreases your risk of a heart attack. It improves your mood and energy. It improves the immune system, keeping you from getting sick and can even help you survive cancer. It helps manage chronic pain. And as mentioned, it makes you smarter, as you hold onto all you day’s learning. Imagine if someone developed a drug that could do all that! It would be hailed the miracle of our lifetime. Whoever developed it would win the Nobel Prize.

There are even more benefits. Sleeping soundly can help you lose fat, recover faster from training, clean your brain, and be better at solving problems. If you exercise, sleep is when your muscles repair and grow. 

The nature of your work in the airline industry is pretty demanding. When you add that to your personal interests – raising a family, taking a course, training for a race, writing a novel, or whatever else makes your life uniquely yours – the health and wellness value of sleep is ramped up even more.

We’re going to spend some time exploring the relationship between sleep and health in a bit more detail.

Dive Deeper: Wash Your Brain!

Dr. Maiken Nedergaard, co-director of the Center for Translational Neuromedicine at Rochester Medical Center, has shown that during sleep, the size of neurons in the brain is reduced by up to 60%.

This creates lots of space between your brain cells. Then during sleep, the glymphatic system cleans the metabolic waste from the microscopic spaces between the neurons.

You wash your body, hair and clothes – now, we know you need to wash your brain. It’s a great image to carry around: wake up every morning knowing that your brains cells have been showered up and your mind is literally cleared for another day!


The information and advice provided in this program is intended to assist Sky Regional employees with improving their general health. It is not intended and should not be used in place of advice from your own physician or for treatment or diagnosis of any specific health issue. Sky Regional is not responsible for the content of this program which has been specially developed and is being provided to you by the Wells Group Inc., in consultation with Sky Regional. By participating in this program you acknowledge that undertaking any new health, diet and/or exercise regime involves certain inherent risks, that you assume such risks, and that you release Sky Regional and the Wells Group Inc. from any responsibility or claim relating to such participation.