It is important to know how valuable sleep is for the body’s normal functions. In the old days people thought that when you slept your brain and body were inactive. That is not the case, because of today’s research. All night your body and brain do a lot of work that’s important for your health. There are two main types of sleep that we cycle in and out of when we rest, something called rapid eye movement (REM) and non-REM sleep.

When you lay down in bed you begin the night in non-REM sleep and spend most of your resting time there. It starts very light in what’s called the N 1 stage and gradually moves to the deep N 3 stage. When this happens, your brain becomes less responsive to the outside world and it gets harder to wake you up. Your thoughts and most body functions slow down, and you spend about half of the normal night’s sleep in what is called the N 2 phase, when scientists think you file away long-term memories.

How did sleep become to be called REM?

This stage of sleep is named REM because of the way your eyes dart back and forth between your eyelids. You dream most in this stage. Your pulse, body temperature, breathing, and blood pressure rise to daytime levels. Your nervous system, specifically the sympathetic system which helps with automatic responses like fight or flight, becomes very active. And despite all that your body lies very still. An average person goes through all of the stages 3 to 5 times a night. The first REM stage maybe just a few minutes, but it gets longer with each new cycle up to about ½ an hour. The N3 stage on the other hand tends to get shorter with each new cycle, and if you lose REM sleep for whatever reason your body will try to make it up the next night.

Why do I get very cold in the middle of the night?

Your body temperature always drops a couple of degrees as you get drowsy before bed and its temperature is lowest about two hours before you wake up. In REM sleep your brain turns your body’s thermometer lower. This is when the temperature of your bedroom will affect you more. In general, cooler rooms make you sleep better. A few push-ups, a jog, some sit ups when you wake up raises your temperature and makes you more alert. Eventually a nice warm shower will make you feel normal for the day to come.

Does sleep help my body to heal when I am sick?

In a deep sleep, your body works to repair muscles, organs, and a whole group of cells. Chemicals that strengthen your immune system start to circulate in your blood. You spend about 1/5 of your night’s sleep deeply when you’re young and healthy, but more if you haven’t slept enough. By the time you’re over 65 deep sleep may be difficult to attain. It’s also important to know that your body makes more of some hormones while you’re asleep and lowers other ones. Levels of growth hormone go up and cortisol tied to stress goes down. Some people that have insomnia may have problems with the body’s hormone making system. Certain other hormones that control hunger like leptin and ghrelin can also be messed up by irregular sleep and change the way you eat, which might cause you to gain weight. All in all, sleep is extremely important to good health and how you look reflects how you sleep.

Coronavirus questions:

does coronavirus respond to temperature?

There is no evidence in the literature that coronavirus response to latitude or temperature. This has been specifically examined by several scientific groups and there is no relationship.

Will mosquitoes transmit coronavirus?

There is no evidence that any insects transmit the coronavirus. This is not like the Zika virus which is transmitted by a mosquito. Mosquitoes have digestive systems that denature the coronavirus. If the coronavirus was easily transmitted by mosquitoes, we would have a lot more colds in the summer months than we do in the winter months, because less harmful coronaviruses would be transmitted by mosquito bites.

Can I go swimming in the summer without worrying about getting infected?

You can certainly get the coronavirus from other people or in a swimming pool. But you should take comfort in knowing that taking a dip should pose little risk of coronavirus infection. Chlorine in swimming pools react with contaminants such as human body fluids, medicines, and personal care products, but even if there is no data to show that the coronavirus responds to chlorine in a swimming pool, it is sensitive to bleach. Bleach effectively inactivates many viruses. As I mentioned above however there could be risk at indoor pools (as we have seen from the crowds at the Ozark pool) from crowds, poor air circulation, and contaminated surfaces such as handrails.

What can we say about vaccines at the present time?

Development of a vaccine for COVID19 is in progress in many laboratories. A report from China showed that an experimental vaccine produced important signs of an immune response in a small group of adults. There is evidence that it could potentially protect people against COVID19. However, this is a very difficult vaccine to develop. The fact that there is an immune response to this virus does not necessarily mean that it is protective. However, the data suggest that a vaccine will work to overcome this virus.
There are several novel vaccines in progress. The first of these is a message for the spike protein of COVID19 carried into the body by a harmless adenovirus. The adenovirus goes into the body, infects cells and passes on the genetic information for the COVID19 spike protein, even though the COVID19 virus is not present. The body’s immune system is fooled into believing that the COVID19 virus is infecting the patient. Another novel vaccine uses something called a messenger RNA. Messenger RNA (mRNA) is critical to the way proteins are made in cells and a new vaccine is being developed using the single-stranded RNA of the COVID19 virus. The mRNA is quite specific and mirrors the single RNA strand of the virus and it can be carried into your cells and make the spike protein of the COVID19 virus. All of these vaccines are novel because they don’t involve the injection of a weakened virus or a dead virus, which is the way we are immunized against diseases like influenza. This is a new day for immunology.