Sleep: theories, stages, dreams, and disordersMadison BrownNavarro CollegeConsciousness is defined as a person’s awareness of everything that is going on around him/her at any given time. Majority of an average person’s day is spent in waking consciousness, in this stage we are aware of our mental processes, our surroundings, and we feel alert. When a person is daydreaming, meditating, under the influence of drugs or alcohol they are in an altered state of consciousness: “state in which there is a shift in the quality or pattern of mental activity as compared to waking consciousness (Ciccarelli & Noland, 2012).” The cycle of sleep and wake is a circadian rhythm, biological rhythm that occurs over a 24-hour period; although people can stay up for hours at a time, you cannot deny sleep all together. When this happens, people drift into micro sleeps, which are moments of sleep followed by disorientation.
Simply missing one day of sleep will cause an inability to achieve easy tasks or concentrate (Ciccarelli & Noland, 2012). A seventeen-year-old high school student, Randy Gardner, broke the previous record not sleeping-, 260 hours held by Tom Rounds; Gardner stayed away for 264.4 hours, 11 days and 25 minutes. Throughout this period, though, Randy’s mind demonstrated the effects of lack of sleep; he experienced hallucinations, memory lapses, he spoke in fragmented sentences. After breaking the record, he slept for 14 hours and recovered healthily (White). We all know that sleep is indispensable, there are varying theories on why; the three major theories being the Adaptive Theory, the Energy Conservation, Restorative Theory, and the Brain Plasticity Theory. The adaptive theory, also referred to as the inactivity theory, suggests a behavioral strategy evolved by organisms.
This proposes that the inactivity we know as sleep is a survival tactic to avoid our prey. This theory is supported by animal’s different sleep patterns and times, such as specific organisms being nocturnal. Secondly is the energy conservation theory that introduces the possibility that our metabolism decreases when during the day or night, more so when food sources are scarce. The third type is the restorative theory is the restorative theory invites back the long stating proposition that sleep in some way recharges our body, retrieving the energy we lost during the day. Sleep provides a period for the body to rejuvenate itself, in this period the body restores and replenishes cellular damages and the chemicals used the preceding day. Finally is the Brain Plasticity Theory, suggests that sleep is correlated to changes in structure and organization of the brain; this can be seen in the varying sleep patterns as you age, infants sleep between 13 and 14 hours a day while an adult sleeps an average of 8 (Harvard Medical School). Through many studies of sleep, these theories were developed; while none of them are proven, they allow a greater understanding of why the body needs this circadian rhythm.
There are two types of sleep; the REM stage and the non-REM stage, REM stands for rapid eye movement. You go through each type multiple times before awakening. REM sleep is a more active, lighter, sleep. Investigations testing the results of REM sleep on recall suggested that any interruption of the sleep disrupt recollection (1973). REM sleep occurs within 90 minutes of falling asleep; your eyes (as suggested by the name) move rapidly, your breathing becomes faster and irregular, and your heart rate and blood pressure raises to waking level (Girolam).This sleep differs in infancy from adulthood, infants spend more time in this stage of sleep; infants, in this stage, are developing new connections between neurons (Ciccarelli & Noland, 2012). The non-rem sleep, actually, has three different stages: N1, N2, and N3.
The first stage occurs as you slip away from waking consciousness into an altered state. When awaked, the person is in such a light state they won’t recall ever falling asleep. Many believe that those who claim paranormal activity and near-death experiences were simply in this very light state of sleep in which a person can experience hallucinations. A common occurrence in this stage of sleep is called the “hypnic jerk” (Ciccarelli & Noland, 2012), there is no researched call of this. The second non-REM stage is the stage before you enter your deep sleep, your breathing slows, and your body relaxes. You spend the most time in this stage. As you enter this sleep your body temperature drops, heart rate slows, as well your breathing becoming irregular. If awakened the person will recall being asleep.
The final stage, N3, is the stage you must reach in order to feel refreshed the next morning (Girolam). This stage occurs longer toward the beginning of your sleep and you may be difficult to wake up as the body is at its lowest functioning level; in this stage hormones are released from the pituitary gland and reach their peak (Ciccarelli & Noland, 2012).The REM stage of sleep is associated with sleep, though you can dream in other stages, majority of dreams occur in this stage.
While many people have been intrigued by dreams and their meanings, Sigmund Freud’s publications of The Interpretation of Dreams (1900) amplified this curiosity. Freud founded psychoanalysis, the method of treating patients through dialogue. He believe that his patients dilemmas stemmed from events they have psychologically hidden from their conscious minds to be forgotten. Freud believed he could get to these memories though dreams; there are two translations of dreams: Manifest Content and Latent Content. The Manifest Content is the interpretation of the dream as it is, no deeper meaning than what the dream appears to be about. Latent Content, on the other hand, believes there is a deeper meaning than the dream itself reveals. Today, Freud’s analysis of dreams are not as popular; though many still believe dreams have a symbolic meaning, they look to other features of the dream and the persons current life events.
One theory on dream content is the activation-synthesis hypothesis; this suggests that dreaming is another way of thinking. The biological reasoning supporting this theory lies in the fact that the frontal lobes stop working, causing ludicrous dreams (Ciccarelli & Noland, 2012).Sleepwalking, night terrors and insomnia are all examples of sleep disorders. A sleep disorder is defined as a disorder of the sleep patterns of a person or animal.
The REM behavioral disorder , as the name implies, occurs in the Rapid Eye Movement Sleep; people with this disorder, due to “brain mechanisms that normally inhibit the voluntary muscles failing”( Ciccarelli & Noland, 2012), are not paralyzes in the sleep and are able to act out their dreams. On uncommon disorder is to experience night terrors; though this is common in children, many grow out of it. Night terrors are states of panic while completely asleep, these states include screaming and attacking a person who is not there. These episodes occur, typically within the first third of their sleep and amnesia of the event is common (Wahl, 1998). These stages of immense panic differ from nightmares as you do not remember them and nightmares do not come with physical activity. Somnambulism, also known as sleep walking, is the occurrence of complex movements during sleep.
It most often occurs during deep sleep but occurrence is light non-REM sleep is not uncommon. Activity in sleepwalking ranges from siting up to even getting into the car. These events are typically not recalled the next day. Insomnia, despite beliefs, is more than the inability to sleep; insomnia is the inability to sleep well, stay asleep, or fall asleep. Insomnia has both physiological and psychological causes: anxiety, substance abuse, high caffeine intake, or physical pains.
Some suggestions to help minimize insomnias effects on the body and mind are to: only attempt sleep when you are tired, exercise regularly, and to avoid substances that slow down the nervous system (Ciccarelli & Noland, 2012), (Maryland Medical Center). One serious sleep disorder, sleep apnea, is when a person “stops breathing for 10 seconds or longer” (Ciccarelli & Noland, 2012). After these moments of not breathing, the person’s respiratory system engages as they struggle to get air into their lungs. There are two types of sleep apnea: obstructive and central sleep apnea (Harvard Medical School). Obstructive sleep apnea is when the airway in your nose or throat becomes blocked due to your muscles relaxing during sleep. Symptoms of this type are fatigue during waking hours or loud snoring.
Central sleep apnea is when the brain cell that controls breathing becomes damages typically by an infection or stroke. A treatment for sleep apnea, that many people use, us the Continuous Positive Airway Pressure Device, or CPAP. This is a mask that fits over your nose and forces your airways open with air. If an infant experiences apnea they may be places on monitors that sound an alarm when breathing seizes to occur.
While we have no definite answers to the many questions proposed about sleep, we do know that it is a necessary bodily function that benefits us physically and mentally. Each day we make new technological advancements to formulate new theories and decrease the number of people affected by sleep disorders each and every day. ResourcesWhite, A. D., Mr. (n.d.
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