Sleep is one of the essential routines in our daily lives. We start to feel a bit drowsy as the clock reaches a certain time and we know it is time to lie down and close our eyes for a while. We have to sleep so that our bodies can refuel for the next day. Sleep is something that is simply programmed into our bodies. We know this because it is commonly seen that people eventually sleep even if they don’t want to! This is because their bodies simply demand it.
Sleep goes on for roughly one-third of our total life which shows how important it is. It is an important activity that, if not spent wisely, will eventually detract from your work and cause severe problems in your life. People just aren’t as good at anything as they are when they have had enough sleep. We know that we should not neglect our sleep because it is crucial for our motor and our cognitive functions. For us to survive in this world, we simply need to sleep.
In a test on rats, those who were deprived of sleep died within two to three weeks. Scientists have learned that it is crucial for both animals and people to sleep to be alert and functioning each day. In scientific terms, we now know that the activity of the brain regulates the amount of sleep that is needed by the body. Researchers use electrodes and electroencephalograms (EEG’s) to measure electrical activity in the brain, eye movement, and muscle tension. These are all examined to determine many facts about sleep in general. The results show certain patterns which then lead to finding out about the various stages of sleep.
There are two basic stages of sleep which are rapid eye movement (REM) and non-rapid eye movement (NREM). NREM sleep is composed of four stages regarding the amplitude and frequency of the activity of the brain waves. The pattern of NREM sleep on the brain waves is slower, more regular, and of a higher voltage than that of wakefulness. When you are in a deep sleep, the brain waves move slower and have bigger amplitude. The first stage of NREM sleep is very light sleep. Stage two NREM, however, has two kinds of brain waves that are present. They are called sleep spindles and K-complexes. Stage three and four of NREM has incrementally higher voltages and slower waves. By stage four NREM, it is extremely hard to wake a person up. This could also be referred to as “sleeping like a log.”
REM sleep is the second basic stage of sleep. It is described by eye movements that bounce around underneath a person’s eyelids in an extremely rapid fashion. The eye movements do not necessarily move all the time but they may suddenly zoom up and down or back and forth, stop for a while and then dart back and forth again intermittently. During REM sleep, the activity shows very fast and irregular activity. It is a lot more spontaneous than in the NREM sleep. The person’s muscle tone also goes limp although the major muscles like the heart, diaphragm, eye muscles and
Blood vessels are still active. The state of the body at this stage is almost like being paralyzed. This is because the electrical activities in the muscles are almost completely stopped. There may be some small twitching in these muscles, but mostly there is nothing during this stage.
Sleep is a cyclical process where NREM and REM sleep will repeat in cycles. It starts with an NREM phase which lasts for roughly ninety to one hundred and ten minutes. Then it recurs four to six times per night. As the night progresses, the extent of NREM sleep decreases and the extent of REM sleep increases. Also, blood flow to the brain, airway resistance, sexual arousal, respiration and blood pressure increase.
Sleep is necessary because it gives your body and mind a chance to recoup. For those with crazy, busy, stressful schedules it is even more so needed. Think about everything you do in a day. Think about the demand you place on your mind and body. Getting rest is the body’s only chance to reenergize for another day of your life.
When you deprive your body of sleep, you will suffer from more than just sleepiness. Your body will begin to ache. You can get headaches. You will find you will catch more colds and illnesses. That’s because sleep contributes to your immune system, strengthening it so it has the power to ward off disease. A lack of sleep inevitably weakens your immune system, making it susceptible to things like the common cold and flu as well as other undesirable afflictions and diseases.
The drowsiness that comes from being sleep deprived also hinders daily life. This can distract you from your job, making it difficult to keep up required productivity levels. Sleeplessness also makes you cranky, as your kids, co-workers or significant other can attest to. This unattractive quality stands in the way of the person you want to be and may go so far as to affect your personal and professional relationships.
If you are going to make sacrifices in life, make the right ones. Instead of sacrificing sleep you might sacrifice that hour, you spend watching The Bachelor. Or you could shut off the news or that late night show you usually watch while finishing work. If you do, you’ll be able to concentrate better the next day, get to bed sooner and wake up feeling more refreshed and full of energy.
So, what is sleep? Quite simply, sleep is a vital part of you and your body’s ability to function productively. Without adequate levels of quality sleep, everything from our reaction times and mental capacity to our overall health and well-being is negatively affected.
Enabling your body to reenergize sufficiently will improve your output, help safeguard against sickness, and contribute to your overall wellbeing. You’ll soon begin to realize the benefits rather than sarcastically asking your sleep deprived co-workers, “What is sleep?”
Sleep is a broad topic, and it is intimately connected to a person’s age in how it functions. Biological clocks, homeostasis, dreams, and sleep practices all play a part in how living things sleep. The science of sleep is so complex that we should all take care to get the correct amount of sleep. It is one of the most important things you will ever do!