It may surprise some people that sleep is not a singular process.
Rather, it is characterized by a series of patterns of brain activity that are distinctively different from what we encounter during the day while awake.
Sleep is not really as simple as shutting down the brain and body. In fact, many important brain and body functions take place during sleep that help to keep us healthy and alive. This is why sleep deprivation is hazardous; we literally cannot maintain good health and well-being without sleep. Sleep is not optional, but required for us to function.
Sleep architecture is one way that scientists can meaningfully understand the sleeping process. By using sleep architecture to define what falls within the range of normal sleep, they can consistently measure and map abnormalities in sleep architecture to form the basis for the diagnosis of a sleep disorder.