Friday, December 29, 2006

Sleep Mechanics

What is Sleep, and Why Do We Sleep?
Your Crash Course on Brain Waves
Ah, before we take a step further into the meat of this juicy information, I'd like to give
you a new understanding, which will make this easier to grasp. You may have
already learned that our minds exhibit a certain brain wave when we're alive. It's not
important for you to understand how these brain waves work or what they are, it's
simply a measure of brain activity.
The general understanding you may want to have is that brain waves can either get
“high” and more intense. Or they can get “lower” and become slower, less intense,
and for lack of a better word, lazy.
The figure above is a general example of high and low brain waves, and how they might appear on an
EEG (electroencephalogram) reading. An EEG is a reading that measures brain wave activity by
hooking up electrodes to points on your scalp.
The 5 Stages of Sleep
There are 5 stages of sleep. Meaning, you're not always having the same experience
when you're sleeping, albeit you're not aware that you're having them. As you read
about these, and you allow this new understanding to come into view - you may
begin to realize just how this mechanism may have played a key role in some of the
sleepy experiences of your life.
When You're Fully Awake
Before you sleep, you're awake. Duh! But what really happens in your mind when
we're fully awake? It's at this point that our wakefulness system is at its peak point
during the day, and our minds exhibit really high brain waves, called beta brain
When we're awake, and in beta brain waves, we are mostly in-tune with our super
active conscious mind, which races from thought to thought, and keeps us on track
with our daily lives. We'll get into the fun part of understanding the conscious /
subconscious mind later on in the “Vivid Dreams – Unlocking Shadow Memories”
e-book you received in the downloadable package with this book.
Stage 1 Sleep
Whether you know it or not, you have consciously experienced Stage 1 Sleep all
your life.
Can you remember a time when you were drowsing off, day dreaming, or “zoning
out” during a boring class or lecture?
It's usually during times like these (and you'll learn why) that we enter Stage 1 Sleep.
During this stage we exhibit slightly lower brain waves called alpha brain waves,
and some theta brain waves. Alpha brain waves are also sometimes called “awake
waves” - because we're still very awake when we're exhibiting them.
In this stage our body relaxes, respiration and heart rate slightly drops, and our
minds tend to drift into an altered state of creativity and relaxation, where thoughts
drip like honey and it feels goooooood to just be there.
You can think of Stage 1 Sleep as a “doorway” to your sleep.
Stage 2 Sleep
During stage 2 sleep, we experience patterns of brain waves called sleep spindles,
and K-Complexes. These are sudden bursts of brain activity. Some scientists think
this symbolizes the gradual attempt by the brain to “turn itself off”, in a manner of
During this stage we are still very wakable. In fact, during sleep studies, most people
woken up out of Stage 2 sleep say “I was still awake.”
Stage 3 & 4 (Deep Sleep)
During stage 3 and 4 our brain waves reach their lowest frequency, we exhibit very
low brain waves called delta brain waves, and our mind goes back and forth
between delta and theta brain waves.
It's during these 2 stages that we are truly officially “asleep”, this stage is also called
deep sleep. As we enter deep sleep, our blood pressure, respiration, and heart rate,
reach their lowest point of the day. Our blood vessels dilate and most of the blood
which is usually stored in our organs during the day travels into our muscles to
nourish and repair them.
Stage 5 (REM Sleep)
Stage 5 Sleep is probably the most fascinating stage of sleep, as scientists still do
not know the true purpose of this stage. Stage 5 sleep is also termed Rapid Eye
Movement, or REM sleep.
During the 1950s a scientist by the name of Nathaniel Kleitman discovered that
when people were in this stage of sleep, their eyes moved very rapidly in all
directions. He also discovered that when people were woken up from this stage,
95% of the time they said they were dreaming just at that time. This is why REM
sleep is also commonly referred to as dream sleep. It's believed that we dream
mostly in the REM sleep stage.
What happens to our brain waves during REM sleep?
As you have learned so far, it would naturally make sense that our brain waves
become even LOWER in this stage of sleep - however, the opposite is true. Our
brain waves rapidly increase, and they're very identical to the ones we exhibit when
we're wide awake! This kind of makes sense as you think about it - since when we
experience dreams, they often feel so real and vivid it's hard to realize they weren't
real when we finally wake up.... and of course, sometimes when we wake up we tend
to wish those dreams WERE in fact real :o)
We ALL dream every night; however, not all of us remember our dreams when we
wake up. You'll explore a killer technique to remember all your dreams vividly in the
How to Get The the “Vivid Dreams” e-book that came with this book.
Sleep Cycles
Now that you know the basics of how sleep works, we can explore how deep the
rabbit hole really goes :o) What is quality sleep?
Well, first you may want to understand that the sleep stages explained above don't
happen only once during sleep. They happen multiple times during sleep in what are
called sleep cycles.
During a sleep cycle, we progress from stage 1 to stage 5 multiple times. It would
seem really complicated to write out how this works, and because I want you to
understand this and grasp this concept clearly, I've drawn it out for you! Aren’t I
Great? Refer to the graph below, and then we'll go over it in detail.
The above graph shows an example of how we progress through the sleep stages, and how much
time we spend in each stage while sleeping. Note: this graph is just an example, on average we
experience about 6-7 of these cycles every night.
So what's happening here? Well, the typical way we travel through our sleep stages
in sleep cycles is as follows:
1, 2, 3, 4, 3, 2, REM, 2, 3, 4, 3, 2 REM 2, 3, 4, 3, 2, REM, 2, 3, 4, 3, 2 REM......
On average, each one of these cycles takes about 60 - 100 minutes, varying from
person to person.
As you study the graph carefully, you may notice a couple of other things happening
1. Notice how the first period of deep sleep is the longest. Notice how the stages of
deep sleep get shorter and shorter, and eventually non existent towards the end of
the night.
2. Notice how the first duration of REM sleep is very short; notice how these periods
get longer towards the end.
The understanding you may get out of this is that sleep gradually gets lighter as the
night progresses.
You may have also realized that we don't spend an equal amount of time in each
stage of sleep. You're right, and this is where we'll answer the “What is Quality
Sleep?” question. Look at the chart below:
The above chart shows the amount of time an average person spends in each stage of sleep. Let's
talk about this in a bit more detail.
How Important is Deep Sleep?
- It's been proven that when we're deprived of deep sleep, we experience our
greatest day-time impairments, such as drowsiness, nausea, headaches, muscle
aches, and trouble concentrating.
- When we're deprived of sleep for any irregular amount of time, our body will
sacrifice all other stages of sleep to regain “deep sleep”. It's believed this is why our
body tries to gain as much deep sleep as possible in the first 3-4 hours of our sleep.
- Because deep sleep is the first stage of sleep the body tries to get the most of, it's
the stage least likely to be missed. As you may recall from the previous graph, the
periods of deep sleep were longest in the beginning.
- Our immune system also turns on during deep sleep to fight diseases. This is why
we sleep more when we're ill.
How Important is REM Sleep?
Studies show that when we're deprived of REM sleep, we exhibit certain day-time
difficulties as well, mainly trouble with concentrating, and sometimes drowsiness.
However, because the body tries to recover deep sleep first as a result of sleep
deprivation, we can assume that REM sleep isn't as important to restoring our
physical functions. It's not clearly known what purpose REM sleep serves; however,
scientists do have a theory that we absorb most of our daytime learnings during
REM sleep. This would explain why babies spend so much time sleeping, 50% of
that time in REM sleep.
So what is Quality Sleep?
As you may have already guessed, quality sleep consists of being able to sleep
deeply. For our minds to easily slide into the deep stages of sleep, and stay there for
the time needed. Easier said than done.
So I've got a question for you: What controls how long and how deep you sleep?
There's an underlying mechanism in our bodies called our “body clock”. However, I
don't like the name so I will simply refer to it as the sleep clock. Your sleep clock is
a system inside of you which controls how you sleep, how deep you sleep, when you
sleep, and how awake you feel during the day. Once you understand this system
you'll be able to take control over your sleep and your energy!
The challenge in our society is that our sleep systems have been weakened by so
many outside stressors that we're not even aware of, that our sleep clocks are totally
out of whack. This is why so many people can't sleep deeply, why they may suffer
from insomnia, poor day-time energy levels, or find themselves waking up several
times in the middle of the night. Usually when you wake up in the middle of the night
it is at the end of a sleep cycle in Stage 2 or REM sleep when our brain waves are
highest and we're most wakable. This happens because of a weakened sleep

No comments: