Sleep makes you strong, makes you feel good. It is an important element of human flourishing and well-being, both subjectively and objectively. Sleep is necessary for a healthy and balanced life. Your body and your brain are active when you sleep. We need to sleep long enough (quantity) and well enough (quality) to function well during waking hours. Nearly all physiological and behavioral functions in humans occur on a rhythmic basis, which in turn leads to diurnal rhythms in human performance capabilities. Sleepdex is dedicated to raising awareness of sleep issues and encouraging people to take sleep seriously.
About Insomnia - types, causes, solutions
Sleep Disorders - apnea, restless legs syndrome, narcolepy, and many more
Circadian rhythms - the cycles of the day and night
Tools for sleeping - bedding, medicines, etc.
Fun stuff - naps, deep sleep, mythology of sleep
Most adults need around seven or eight hours of sleep every night to function well. Although many people claim they require less, doctors who study sleep find only 10% require significantly more or less sleep. A chronic lack of sleep and untreated sleep disorders may be factors in the development of cardiovascular disease, obesity, and diabetes.
"Sleep rock thy brain" – Shakespeare, Hamlet
Sleep is an active behavior. Your body and your brain are active when you sleep. Biochemical and neurobiological functions take place all night long. Contrary to popular belief, the brain does not "shut down" during sleep.
Centuries ago sleep was considered an undifferentiated block of time of unconsiousness. What happened in the brain during sleep was a mystery, although dreams were considered important. Now, while mysteries remain, we know a lot more. We have discovered that the night's sleep can be classified in phases or stages. The most important division is between REM and Non-REM sleep. Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep - so called because of the characteristic eyelid fluttering is also called paradoxical sleep.
NREM can further be divided into stages. One way to tell what stage a sleeper is in is to look at his or her "brain waves" - the output of an EEG. But these waves are just phenomena that we can easily measure. We now know all sorts of biochemical reactions and physiological fixes happen during sleep. NREM is about two-thirds "light sleep" and one-third "deep sleep" in adults. Children and teens spend more time in deep sleep, and adults report deep sleep as the most refreshing kind.
When awakened from Stage 1, the person will say they were not yet asleep. The psychological content experienced in stage 1, as people remember it when awakened, is similar to daydreaming.
The first period of REM starts about 90 minutes after the person falls asleep. It's usually a short period of REM, only 5 to 15 minutes. As the night progresses, the lengths of the REM period will increase. Most REM, and indeed most vivid dreams, happen late in the sleep period, - that is in the few hours before awakening.
Investigators have found measures of physiological activation that distinguish insomniacs from normal sleepers. Blood tests show hormone patterns are different. Poor sleepers have more adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) and cortisol in their systems – indicating greater stress. Insomniacs also have higher heart rates (in general) and show signs of greater sympathetic nervous system activity during day and night. They also have higher rates of hypertension.
Detailed study with fancy imaging machines finds people with primary insomnia tend to have higher whole-body metabolic rates – they burn more energy – 24 hours a day. This includes the brain.
External measures back up the idea of an overall active body. Insomniacs have more beta activity in their EEG readings during the night, and when awake generally have higher sleep latency times when trying to get to sleep.
People with this condition aren’t just hyperaroused when they are asleep or trying to sleep. They are hyperaroused all the time and have trouble relaxing or “down-shifting” to get to sleep.
It is known that some people inherit a predilection for insomnia, and finding of this whole-body activation due to hyperarousal suggests the hyperarousal is “baked in” to a greater extent than other cases of insomnia. The daytime arousal is part of the package and not just an artifact of the nighttime insomnia.
What is to be done?
Cognitive behavioral therapy, relaxation techniques, and exercise have all been proposed for those with hyperarousal. Sedatives and hypnotics can also be used although long-term use is undesirable.
The psychological aspects of hyperarousal are part of what cognitive behavioral therapy is trying to address. Negative thoughts, frustration, worry activate the arousal mechanism and keep people awake. Ruminating on bad news or undesirable situations produces effects in the body and keep us from sleeping.