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The Mysterious World Of Sleep

Mar 23, 2008
For a lot of us, our lives are chaotic and jam-packed. Our work, taking care of the kids, the endless errands, exercise, social events, and the daily stresses of life can invade our days so much that the last thing we think about is this: am I getting enough sleep, and is it the right kind of sleep I need?

It's astonishing that 40% of adults do not get the sleep they need to function to their optimum potential. A lack of sleep is vital to our well-being and can have serious repercussions if neglected.

What I'd like to do today is do a "fly-by" into the sleep world: You'll find out what it is, how it works, why we need it, and the amount we need to be healthy. So, off we go into the mysterious world of sleep.

Sleep: What is it?

Sleep can be defined as a state of unconsciousness. During sleep, the brain is more responsive to internal stimuli rather than external stimuli.

How Do We Sleep?

Researchers of human sleep have discovered five defined stages of sleep using EEG recordings and polysomnography. Their findings are as follows:

Non-Rem (NREM) sleep: Occupies 75-80% of total sleep time

Stage 1: This stage is sometimes referred to as "drowsy sleep". It appears at the onset of sleep and acts as a transition stage into

Stage 2: This stage can be associated with hypnagogic hallucinations (dreamlike images, sounds or sometimes smells before falling asleep or waking up), a loss of muscle tone, and a conscious awareness of the external environment. This stage can be thought of as a gateway between wake and sleep, also be defined as "sleep spindles". Conscious awareness of the environment disappears. This occupies 45-55% of your total sleep.

Stage 3: This stage is primarily a transition into stage four. This stage occupies 3-8% of total sleep time.

Stage 4: This stage is true delta sleep. It predominates the first third of the night, occupying 10-15% of total sleep time. This is the deepest stage of sleep, and is difficult to wake up a person while they are in Stage 4. Night terrors and sleepwalking occur in this stage.

Rapid eye movement (REM) sleep

Stage 5: This stage is associated with dreaming, including strange visual and random dreams. Rem sleep is largely found in the final third of sleep, linking it to our circadian rhythm (aids in coordinating the timing of our internal bodily functions, including sleep, as well as our interactions with the external world) and body temperature. In an EEG, his period is active in the mind and appears similar to that of Stage 1.

Why Do We Need Sleep?

For our health. Sleep plays a vital role in our daily regimen. As we sleep, our body is able to recharge and rejuvenate tired body organs and tissues while restoring the body to an alert state. This is also when your brain commits new information to memory through a process called memory consolidation.

For our waistlines. Chronic sleep deprivation may cause weight gain by affecting the way your body processes and stores carbohydrates and by altering levels of hormones that control appetite.

For safety. If you do not get enough sleep, you are more likely to feel sleepy during the day. This sleepiness increases your risk of falls and mistakes such as traffic accidents and work errors.

For happiness. A lack of sleep can result in irritability, impatience, problems with concentration, and moodiness. Sleep loss can also make you too tired to do activities you enjoy.

For a healthy heart. Research has found a link between serious sleep disorders and hypertension, increased stress hormone levels, and irregular heartbeat.

To stay strong. A lack of sleep weakens your immune system.

How Much Sleep is Needed?

The amount of sleep an individual requires varies from person to person due to lifestyle and health issues. But as a basic rule of thumb, most adults require an average of eight hours of sleep. Children and teenagers, because they are still growing and developing, require approximately nine to ten hours of sleep.

So as you can see, sleep is essential to our health and well-being. Make sleeping important to you and schedule it if necessary. You will notice that with enough sleep, you will be happier, more at peace, and have a sharper mind to make it through your sometimes chaotic day.

I wish you a wonderful slumber and many happy dreams!
About the Author
Colleen is a health and fitness enthusiast who loves to pass on the latest information on health and wellness. Sign up for your free e-newsletter filled with cutting-edge information on health, nutrition, weight loss, and fitness. For your free e-newsletter, visit HealthyRevelations.com
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