SLEEP & GOOD HEALTH
Sleep is an essential
ingredient for our well-being, and it manifests both externally
and internally. Work it out for yourself.....the
normal human being is supposed to spend about one third of his/her
life in sleep. Why would nature have programmed these rest periods as being absolutely necessary for our bodies? In fact, cell regeneration
and cell growth are known to occur only during periods of rest,
and many hormones essential to proper functioning of the human
body are produced only when the body is at its deepest sleep stage.
Have you noticed how your entire facial structure changes after
a night of undisturbed, relaxed sleep? Hollows under the eyes
plump up, ravines flanking your nose turn into manageable furrows,
the eyes sparkle, the eye-whites become, well 'white'. instead
of off-white or pink.
is sleep? Let's first understand the process of
sleep, before examining how sleep changes with age, and what you
can do to ensure that you get enough of this natural panacea for
all problems. When someone asks you to 'sleep on it', you are
getting good advice, because your subconscious mind gets to work
on the problem overnight.
is an essential biological process!
Though its function remains largely unknown, despite the millions
of dollars being spent on research, there are certain factors
about sleep that no one can dispute:
It is ubiquitous, i. e. found in all species of mammals,
birds, reptiles and even insects!
Sleep has been preserved throughout evolution. This is
despite the fact that it can be a potentially dangerous
behavioral pattern. Animals cannot, during sleep, forage
for food, take care of their young, procreate or avoid dangers
Sleep is essential for all living beings.
Sleep deprivation studies tell us that to remain awake becomes
increasingly difficult after one day without sleep. The pressure
to sleep becomes overwhelming after 48 hours of continuously
being awake. Studies have shown that rats actually die when
kept awake for 17 days at a stretch, and scientists cannot
Scientists have used the following behavioral
criteria in an attempt to define sleep in universally accepted
1. A prolonged period of quiescence.
2. A reduced responsiveness to external stimuli.
3. Rapid reversibility (as opposed to hibernation, which is not
4. Homeostatic regulation (there is an increased need to sleep
5. It appears to be independently regulated (it is not completely
tied to circadian (body) rhythms, but has more complex regulations.)
6. In many regions of the brain, gene expression is higher during
waking time, than in sleep.
There are 2 basic stages in the sleep process. REM (Rapid Eye
Movement) sleep and NREM (non-REM) sleep. NREM sleep is divided
further into four sleep stages, numbered 1, 2, 3 and 4. Normal
sleep begins with stage 1 and progresses into 2, 3 and 4, getting
more and more deep with each stage. The deeper sleep is achieved
at stages 3 and 4. (This is also the stage during which HGH and
melatonin is released by the pineal gland). The fifth stage, which
is actually lighter, is REM sleep, during which dreaming occurs.
The different sleep stages are also referred to as S-sleep (synchronized
EEG pattern sleep) and D-sleep (desynchronized EEG pattern sleep).
D-sleep is the same as REM or dream sleep; S-sleep is another
name for NREM, ( also known as orthodox or quiet sleep).
The five stages
Stage 1: As we fall asleep, we enter the transition state called stage
1 and begin our first "sleep cycle". This very light
sleep stage usually lasts 2-5 minutes. If sleep remains undisturbed
it will progress to stage 2 sleep. Stage 1 contributes 2-5 % of
normal sleep, (but increases hugely in cases of insomnia and disorders
that produce frequent arousals such as apnea) .
Stage 2: This is a much deeper sleep than stage 1. The brain waves
go into theta mode, and lead into stages 3 and 4 in around 10-20
minutes. Stage 2 sleep occupies approximately 50-65% of our sleep
time, lasting 15-30 minutes in each cycle.. During the latter
part of the night we spend more and more time alternating between
stages 2 & REM sleep.
Stage 3: A deeper sleep than stage 2. The muscles are relaxed, heart
rate slows down, blood pressure falls, breathing is steady and even.
Brain activity slows down dramatically from the theta pattern of
stage 2 to a much slower rhythm of 1 to 2 cycles per second called
'delta', and the height, or amplitude, of the waves increases.
Stage 4: The deepest sleep of all, during which a sleeping person
is 'dead to the world'. Blood pressure and heart rate fluctuate
and the sleeper's brain heats up. Delta sleep is characterized
by very high voltage slow brain waves. It is similar to being
in a coma, but unlike a coma, it's reversible. As we transverse
these first four stages of sleep our respiration and heart rate
slow and the body is almost immobile.
5: REM (rapid eye movement). All of a sudden, after 20-30 minutes of slow wave sleep, we transfer
back into stage 2, and almost immediately change gears into very
active brain wave pattern known as REM sleep. Simultaneous with
this transfer into REM, our respiration and heart rate increases
substantially and we lose our ability to use our postural or skeletal
The first REM period lasts only about ten minutes. After that,
the sleeper goes back into a deep stage 4 sleep. Again, the sleeper
returns into a REM stage after a short period, and cycles through
REM and stage 4 continue until the sleeper awakens. Along with
this, our brain becomes so activated that we start to hallucinate
and dream. Our eyes move as in wakefulness, and in relation to
what we are dreaming. In effect, we are, at this stage ,a highly
activated brain in a paralyzed body. This paradoxical state will
last 10-20 minutes and then we "fall" back down into
stage 2 again.
This is the end of a sleep cycle and then it
all starts over again, As the night progresses we gradually lose
our delta sleep, and replace it with longer and longer periods
of alternating stage 2 and REM sleep. By the final sleep cycle
of the night, we spend approximately half our sleep time in stage
2 and half in REM.
NREM and REM states occur in a roughly 90 minute
cycles, which is repeated 5 to 6 times a night. In most adults
Stages 3 and 4, or Delta sleep, are completed within the first
two 90 minute sleep cycles, or within the first three hours of
sleep. Contrary to popular belief, it is delta sleep that is the
"deepest" stage of sleep (not REM) and the most restorative.
It is delta sleep that a sleep deprived person's brain craves
the first and foremost. In children, delta sleep can occupy up
to 40% of all sleep time.
During the day while we are awake, our normal
brain wave pattern is mainly in a high-frequency beta pattern.
When we fall asleep, our brain-wave patterns slow down changing
first from beta into alpha (pre-sleep drowsiness), and then into
a back-and-forth cycle through REM sleep followed by NREM sleep.
Stage 2 & REM sleep takes place in a theta brain-wave pattern,
while non-REM sleep stages 3 & 4 happens in the slower delta
pattern, which occur during the first part of the sleep cycle.
Brain Patterns change
Low-voltage, high-frequency beta waves
Alpha waves prominent
Stage 1 Sleep
Theta waves prominent
Stage 2 Sleep
Sleep spindles and mixed EEG activity
Slow wave sleep
(stage 3 and stage 4 sleep)
Progressively more delta waves
Low-voltage, high-frequency waves
Sleep Apnea & Sleep Disorders
Sleep & Aging
Sleep Loss & Insomnia Solutions
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