Archive for Sleep Science

What Happens While We Sleep

Although I’ve already written a brief post on the sleep cycle there was a lot more that could be said on the subject. I believe it is helpful to understand how we sleep, as all other information about how to improve sleep must be based on it.

 

There are two major types of sleep: Non-REM, or quiet sleep; and REM, or dreaming sleep. REM, you may recall, stands for ‘rapid eye movement’ and refers to the rapid movements the eyes make while in that stage of sleep.

These two types, or categories, of sleep are radically different from one another. It is a common misconception that when we are asleep our minds and bodies are simply ‘turned off’, and when we are awake they are ‘turned on’. In reality sleep is not so passive as you may think. Our bodies, and especially our minds are busy during sleep, and they are busy doing things that they only do while asleep – things that are necessary for health and growth.

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Sleep Deprivation May be More Harmful than You Think

You know that kid in school who always asked detailed questions about what was required for the assignment? They wanted the teacher to tell them the least they had to do to get a passing grade. They also wanted to know how much impact that test/quiz/assignment/book report/oral report/etc. would have on their grade, so they could blow it off if it was a small assignment.

 

Many times we have a similar attitude when it comes to sleep. How little sleep can I get by on and still have a decent day? How big a deal is it if I stay up all night before a big test? Does it really matter if I consistently get less than ideal sleep?

I think most of us are aware that when we suffer through a long sleepless night of tossing and turning that we will not feel too great the next day. There are immediate consequences. However, our attitude about these may be that these consequences are just minor, surface concerns – fatigue, irritability, sore muscles and joints, stomach distress. But how important are these? And are there other concerns that are more significant? Are there any long-term health problems related to poor sleep?

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The Effects of Poor Sleep

Most of us have experienced poor sleep at one time or another. OK, who am I kidding? All of us have. If you regularly fail to get good sleep, you are not alone. Have you ever wondered what the impact of poor sleep is? Does it really matter much, other than being a little cranky the next morning?

The Prevalence of Poor Sleep

Sleep disorders and problems affected 75% of adults, according to a 2005 survey by the National Sleep Foundation (NSF), and 54% experienced at least one symptom of insomnia.

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The Stages of Sleep

As we sleep our minds and bodies pass through several different stages. In fact there are five different stages of sleep, cleverly named stages 1, 2, 3, 4 and REM (Rapid Eye Movement).

Sleep begins as the mind enters into stage 1, which is a very light sleep from which a person can be easily startled and awakened. The heart rate slows, movements slow, and the body temperature drops. You may have noticed on warm evenings that, when the temperature is uncomfortably warm, your body begins to cool even before you actually enter into sleep mode.

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