"The value of rest
is very under appreciated these days" - Eve
Van Cauter, Sleep Researcher.
Sleep is usually classified into two:
orthodox sleep and paradoxical sleep. Orthodox sleep is also
called non REM or NREM (Non Rapid Eye Movement) sleep and
paradoxical sleep is often called the REM sleep. NREM sleep has
four different stages: in the first stage, blood supply to the
brain is reduced and the temperature in the brain falls slightly.
Heart beat and breathing are accelerated. The muscles are
slightly tensed. Thoughts cris-cross the mind. In the next stage,
unconnected thoughts dominate the mind. Slowly the sleeper moves
to the third stage in which the heart rate and breathing become
slow. The muscles of the body becomes relaxed. The brain starts
to emit delta waves. In the next stage, we have the deep sleep
which is full delta wave sleep. The orthodox sleep is broken up
by about five periods of REM sleeps each of which is longer
duration than the previous one.
In the REM sleep, the sleeper breaths
irregularly. The blood supply to the brain is increased and so is
the temperature in the brain. Most of the muscles are relaxed in
this stage. Jerky movements of body and face are characteristic
of this stage of sleep. An average person spends about 25% of his
sleep in REM sleep. New born children have REM sleep: about half
of their sleep is REM sleep.
During stages 3 and 4, growth hormones are
secreted into the blood stream. Body's manufacture of proteins,
sexual arousal, orgasm etc. are also significantly influenced by
REM sleep. Earlier, sleep researchers believed that REM sleep is
essential for our mental health. But this is not accepted now.
Effects of Sleep
knits up the ravel'd sleeve of care." - Shakesphere.
From a Psychology of Consciousness point of
view, sleep includes two states of consciousness -- dream
(svapnam) and deep sleep (sushupti). Wakefulness, Dream Sleep,
Deep Sleep and Turiyam are the four states of consciousness. Deep
sleep being the third can influence both dream and wakefulness.
If you get more deep sleep, you will be very energetic in your
wakefulness. Duration of dreaming is also regulated because of
For the sleep to be satisfactory to the
sleeper, it should be continuous. Fragmented sleep does not have
restorative or refreshing value.
Learning and Sleep
Many researchers argue that REM sleep is
important for the transfer of learned material during wakefulness
from Short Term Memory(STM) to Long Term Memory(LTM).
Dream and Problem Solving
Many people including scientists, artists
men of letters and even laymen have reported that they got new
ideas from their dreams and even solutions to complex problems
have been received through dreams. The famous chemist Kekule, who
discovered the benzene ring, has said that he got the idea from
his dream. The inventor of sewing machine also reported that he
got the idea for designing the needle of the machine from his
Sleep and Sex
Men experience erection (Nocturnal Penile
Tumescence - NPT) during REM sleep. Both men and women have
reported wet dreams (ejaculation) in the dream sleep. Most of men
say that after orgasm they slip into sleep. On the contrary,
women say that they experience alertness rather than relaxation
Sleep and Food
It is a well known fact that the food and
drinks we consume have significant effect on our sleep. Sleep
researchers have found a list of such foods and drinks. Caffeine
containing substances like tea, coffee, chocolate, soft drinks
etc. are found to disturb sleep. Alcohol and smoking are also
found to disturb your sleep. While alcohol may make you drowsy or
even push you to sleep, such sleeps are never refreshing -- they
are often low level sleep.
Malted milk products, on the other hand,
have been found to have sleep-promoting effects.
How Much Should One Sleep
This truly depends on the person. Some
people do need more sleep than others. Some others can become
refreshed and wake effective with very little sleep. In general,
we need sleep from 5 hours to 9 hours. The personal need for
sleep varies with the level of stress also. The quality of sleep
also is affected by the level of stress. Fears and anxieties,
guilt, self-deception etc. disturbs one's sleeping rhythm.
The more deep sleep you get, the less need
you have to stay asleep. On the other hand, even if you stay
asleep for long hours, if your sleep is either filled with a lot
of dreams or if you have only light sleep( stages 1 and 2 sleep),
you tend to sleep longer. It is not the duration of sleep that
counts but quality of sleep.
Sleep and Immunity
It is now fairly proved that sleep has
direct effect on the immune system. Our defenses against both
bacterial and viral infection are found to be increased during
sleep. On the other hand, sleep deprivation reduces our immunity
against these diseases. The immune system also becomes overactive
with sleep deprivation spending a lot of energy. This makes our
body very tired and fatigued.
Sleep and Beauty
Good sleep with enough deep sleep is found
to be very effective to maintaining one's beauty. The skin gets
refreshed with new cells during sleep. Both physical and
psychological rejuvenation occurs at sleep.
All of us have experienced that if we did
not get a restorative and refreshing sleep, we feel week like the
old. Continuous insomnia, insufficient sleep or light sleep
accelerates the aging process whereas effective deep sleep
restores and rejuvenates us and aids in maintaining our physical
Ayurveda on Sleep Problems
Ayurveda says that sleeplessness results in
laziness, tiredness, inertia, dizziness, feeling of heaviness,
body ache etc. Head ache, high temperature, cough are the results
of continued untimely sleep. Ayurveda also says that over sleep
can cause diabetes.
People having depression, schizophrenia,
and similar psychological disorders have been found to improve
their condition if they get enough deep sleep.
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