Rachel Bye, Alexis Guignet, Misa Lai
Sleep. What is it? Why do we do it? How does it change? How can I improve mine? Everyone sleeps, but not many people are able to tell you anything about it. To many people, sleep is simply falling unconscious for a few hours every night and not thinking about it. To others, sleep is an unattainable gift that is not taken lightly when achieved. Everyone has to sleep, but what’s going on in there while we’re off in dreamland? Let’s take a closer look.
Facts & Statistics
There are five stages of sleep. The first four stages are called non-REM sleep. These stages include very little eye movements as well as dreaming (Weiten Pg 147). The first stage is a brief stage of light sleep that tends to last between ten minutes and twelve minutes (Rama, Cho, & Kushida). During this time is when the muscles begin to relax (Crean Pg 1). One’s body temperature and heart rate drop during this stage as well (Weiten 146). Have you ever been asleep but felt as if you were falling? You could get this feeling during the first stage of sleep because many people experience similar-feeling muscle contractions during this time (Crean Pg 1). After this is the second stage of sleep. During the second stage our body temperature and heart rate will continue to decrease. Our brain will increase in amplitude and produce short rapid bursts of activity called sleep spindles (Cline Pg 1). The next two stages are the third and fourth stages of sleep. These stages are referred to as slow-wave sleep, because the brain will form delta waves which will have a large amplitude and a slow frequency. (Weiten Pg 146) The fourth stage is very deep sleep that lasts approximately a half hour. This period is so deep that this is when somnambulism, or sleep walking, and bed-wetting occur (Walcutt Pg 1). The fifth stage is REM sleep. REM is an acronym for rapid eye movement (Weiten Pg 146). REM is a deep sleep marked by characteristics such as irregular breathing, increased heart rate, and increased blood pressure (Crean pg 1). REM sleep is the stage that produces the most frequent and memorable dreams (Pace-Schott). The sleep stages cycle will be repeated approximately four times a night. With each cycle, the stages of non-REM will get shorter and REM sleep will become longer (Weiten Pg 147).
Sleeping patterns change as we grow older with age. As we get older, we tend to sleep less. Newborns will sleep between sixteen and eighteen hours a day, whereas children who are between the ages of one and four will sleep between eleven and twelve hours a day. Adolescents need nine hours of sleep to perform to the best of their ability and adults need at least eight hours of sleep (Harvard Pg 1). The amount of REM sleep we get as we increase in age also decreases. Fifty percent of an infant’s sleep cycle will be REM sleep. After the first year of birth, infants’ REM sleep will decrease to thirty percent. The amount of REM sleep we get each night will decrease to twenty percent by the time we are adolescents. From adolescence on, the amount of time we spend in slow-wave sleep will continue to decline. However, the amount of time we spend in stage one will increase (Weiten Pg 148). Studies show that young adults between the ages of eighteen and thirty will be more sleepy throughout the day than older adults between the ages of sixty and eighty, even though younger adults on average sleep one and half more hours than older adults. It was concluded that younger adults just need more sleep (Klerman & Dijk Pg 1118-1123).
Why should sleep be important to you?
Twenty-five percent of Americans report that they are living with sleep deprivation (National Center for Disease Control and Prevention Pg 1). Sleep deprivation occurs when people make do with less sleep than normal over a period of time (Weiten Pg 151). Studies show that sleep deprivation can have a negative effect on our attention, reaction time, motor coordination, decision making, and immune system (Dingers, Rogers, & Baynard). Another negative impact caused by sleep deprivation is the amount of car crashes. In 2005, the National Sleep Foundation conducted a study asking Americans if they drove a car while feeling tired, within the past year. About one hundred and sixty-eight million people, or sixty percent of drivers admitted to getting behind the while feeling sleepy. One hundred and three million people, which is thirty-seven percent of drivers, have fallen asleep while driving. Eleven million drivers or four percent got into an accident because they were sleep deprived or feel asleep behind the wheel (National Sleep Foundation Pg 1). As we become sleep deprived we also become REM deprived. Lack of REM sleep can affect our memory and creativity. Studies have been done where researchers woke up the participants every time they went in REM. As a result, the participants became REM deprived. The studies continued for several nights. As the participants became deprived of their REM, every time they fell asleep they went into REM. When the participants finally got a full night sleep they spent more time in REM to make up for their REM deprivation (Weiten Pg 152).A full night of sleep is crucial to a person's development. Without sufficient sleep one can succumb to sleeping disorders. Out of all of the sleeping disorders insomnia is the most common. It refers to chronic problems in obtaining adequate sleep. It is associated with daytime fatigue, impaired functioning, elevated risks for accidents, and increased health problems (Weiten, pg 153-154). Narcolepsy is a disease marked by sudden and irresistible onsets of sleep during normal waking periods. A person suffering from this disease goes directly from wakefulness into REM sleep usually for 10-20 minutes. This is dangerous because the victim falls asleep instantly, sometimes even walking across a room or driving a car. (Pelayo & Lopes, pg 154). Sleep apnea involves frequent, reflexive gasping for air that awakens a person and disrupts sleep. Sleepwalking occurs when a person arises and wanders about while remaining asleep. About 15% of children and 3% adults exhibit repetitive sleepwalking (Cartwright, pg 155).
You may be thinking, “Now what?” You know the facts, but what can we do to help improve our sleeping patterns?
Many times, when we can’t sleep, it’s because our sleep is not on the right schedule! It’s important to eliminate distractions while you’re in bed so that your body acknowledges that it’s time to go to sleep. Some ways to do this are:
· Set any electronics aside. Make sure you don’t bring them into bed with you so that you can slowly fall asleep rather than be distracted by the endless notifications.
· If you can’t fall asleep right away, don’t let your mind run wild! Get up, walk around, and do something relaxing until you’re actually tired.
· Deep breathing can help a busy mind calm down. Once the thoughts simmer down, sleep comes naturally!
Sometimes we can’t fall asleep for specific reasons such as
1. Going to bed on a full stomach.
2. Going to bed on an empty stomach.
3. Full bladder
4. Consumption of alcohol or nicotine
5. Exercising before bed
6. Certain medications
Some things that can help with these issues including
· Maintaining a proper diet and exercise
· Making sure to time your drinking
· Avoiding consumption of stimulating substances
· Avoiding coffee, tea, soda before bed
F.A.Q.’s of Sleep with the help of the Better Sleep Council
Q. How much sleep do I actually need?
A. The average person needs 7-8 hours a night. However, a rule of thumb would be that if you sleep more on weekends than weekdays, you aren’t getting the proper amount of sleep for your body.
Q. Is napping bad for you?
A. Short naps periodically can provide refreshment; however, sleeping hours on end may be a sign of a lack of necessary sleep. Sleeping for longer than 20 minutes during the day can create severe grogginess upon waking up due to the length of the sleep cycle.
Q. How important is my mattress?
A. If your mattress is not comfortable for you, your body will let you know by “robbing” you of your sleep! Make sure to have the proper mattress for your sleeping patterns so that you can meet your sleeping potential.
Q. I have to sleep during the day due to my work shift – what can I do to help me fall asleep?A. Darkness is vital. Cover your windows, turn off all lights, and make sure little sunlight comes into the room. Recreating the night atmosphere is incredibly important in “tricking” your body to fall asleep (Better Sleep Council, pg 1).