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Sleep

Sleep is Mother Nature's best effort yet to counter death1."

The above quote comes from psychologist Matthew Walker, one of the world's most prominent researchers of sleep science. Although the exact reason why we sleep remains elusive, all research agrees that it is essential to our comprehensive well-being. The benefits of sleep are undeniable and exhaustive. They are life-changing and, indeed, possibly life-saving. In a world that glorifies the grind and hustle culture, we all could do with a little greater understanding of sleep science.

  • What is sleep?
  • What is REM sleep?
  • What is NREM sleep?
  • What are benefits to sleep?

What Is Sleep in Psychology?

Sleep has inspired much research and several different dream theories in psychology. Sigmund Freud wrote extensively about dreams and thought that they showed us reflections of our deepest desires or fixations and anxieties. Today we are likely to find a deeper connection to our true self through analyzing our dreams.

Sleep impacts our overall health in a significant and comprehensive way.

Effects of Sleep Deprivation

Those having sleep problems or sleep disorders report physical and psychological symptoms that sweep the entirety of our health. Suffering from sleep disorders like insomnia, sleep apnea, night terrors, and narcolepsy can cause an increase in physical illnesses, lower immune systems, and greater incidences of depression and other psychological disorders.

Sleep woman sleeping StudySmarterWoman sleeping, pixabay.com

Sleep specialists recommend that adults get an ideal 7-8 hours of sleep for optimal health. Even at 6-7 hours per night, significant impairments have been found in performance, health, and mood. Specialists not only recommend that we get the same number of hours of sleep each night, but we should also strive to keep regular sleeping and waking hours and deviate from our schedule as little as possible

Benefits of Sleep

While it's true that we don't yet understand sleep in the same way that we understand other biological needs, we do have an ever-expanding list of the benefits of sleep. Research has shown that sleep affects our health on a comprehensive level. The following are just some benefits we gain from sleep.

Protection

While we sleep, our brains perform certain vital house cleaning functions. Researchers have discovered a correlation between lack of sleep and the development of conditions like Alzheimer's disease. A lack of sleep can lead to a greater build-up of beta-amyloid, a toxic protein linked to diseases like Alzheimer's.

Indeed, the impairments to our bodies and brains caused by lack of sleep are significant enough to leave us vulnerable to almost any health crisis.

Recuperation

Sleep supports neurons repairment and pruning unessential neural connections made throughout the day. It aids brain tissue repair and the elimination of free radicals in the body.Sleep plays a part in strengthening our immune system. It can affect whether you get sick and how long it takes you to recover. As we sleep, our immune system regenerates the strength necessary to remove harmful antigens.

Memory

Research indicates that we remember things better after a night of sleep. Studies have shown that we can learn new information quicker and maintain it longer when rested. This is because our neural connections are strengthened during sleep.

Creativity

During REM sleep, in particular, our brains take newly acquired information and integrates it with our stored memories and associations. This allows our brains to make better connections and spot unique details and information. These stretches of memory association are important for creating more creative solutions, whether the problem is a mathematical formula or the melody of a new song.

Sleep supports growth

Our pituitary glands release human growth hormone (HGH) during our slow-wave sleep cycle. This promotes cell reproduction and regeneration. Severe and prolonged sleep disruption can affect muscle development and growth in children.Sleep has also been shown to promote greater resilience and stamina in professional athletes. It reinforces the "muscle memory" essential to athletes and dancers.

Sleep, man yawning, StudySmarterMan yawning, pixabay.com

Can You Sleep without Losing Consciousness?

When we slip into sleep, we lose consciousness. This is why we can't remember the experience of falling asleep. Losing consciousness is also why we are unaware of experiencing micro-sleeps, brief moments of sleep that last several seconds. Finally, this is why people suffering from insomnia can't remember if they've slept.

However, we might gain a certain sense of consciousness when we begin dreaming.

Four Stages of Sleep

As we sleep, we cycle through the four stages of sleep every 90 minutes. These four stages are divided into two categories: REM sleep and non-REM (NREM) sleep.REM stands for rapid eye movement, the distinguishing feature of this stage of sleep. During REM sleep, our closed eyes move around in short, rapid bursts.In NREM we don't experience rapid eye movements. NREM sleep makes up the first three stages of the sleep cycle.

NREM Stage 1

As we first succumb to sleep, we slip into NREM Stage 1, where our breathing slows, and our brain waves become irregular. In this initial stage, you might experience fantastical sensory experiences akin to hallucinations or hypnogogic sensations. If you've ever experienced the sensation of weightlessness or falling and suddenly jerking when you first slip off into sleep, these are hypnogogic sensations.This initial sleep stage lasts only a couple of minutes.

NREM Stage 2

This second stage of sleep lasts about 20 minutes. It is typified by sleep spindles, cycles of rapid bursts of brain wave activity.

NREM Stage 3

This third stage is deep sleep and lasts for about 30 minutes. It is characterized by delta waves or large, slow brain waves. In this stage of sleep, it is hard to wake up. If you've ever missed your alarm going off for several minutes, you were likely in NREM Stage 3 when it started going off.

REM Sleep

This fourth stage lasts about ten minutes and is characterized by the rapid eye movements for which it got its name. These eye movements signal the beginning of a dream. During this stage, we experience sleep paralysis, so we are ultimately paralyzed and do not act out our dreams.During this stage, our heart rate increases, and our breathing becomes more rapid and less regular.

What Causes Sleep Paralysis?

You may have woken from a night of sleep to the sensation of not being able to move your body. You lie there seemingly paralyzed, but don't panic! You may simply be experiencing sleep paralysis. Alarming as it may be, this sensation usually dissolves after several moments.

During REM sleep, our brain stem blocks motor cortex activity. Sleep paralysis comes from a temporary corporeal miscommunication during this stage.

Sleep - Key takeaways

  • Four stages of sleep can be classified into two categories: REM and NREM sleep.
  • The sleep stages are NREM 1, NREM 2, NREM 3, and REM sleep.
  • Five benefits of sleep are protection, recuperation, improved memory, greater creativity, and the promotion of human growth hormone.
  • Sleep paralysis results from a temporary corporeal miscommunication during REM sleep.
  • Micro-sleeps are brief moments of sleep that last several seconds.

References

  1. Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams. Walker, Matthew.

Frequently Asked Questions about Sleep

Dreams have been interpreted as a means of revealing a deeper part of our inner world, or as a deeper expression of our daily life.

One cannot sleep without losing consciousness. 

Sleep paralysis is caused by our brain stem blocks motor cortex activity during REM sleep. Sleep paralysis comes from a temporary corporeal miscommunication during this stage. 

The four stages of sleep are NREM1, NREM2, NREM3, and REM sleep. 

Good sleep affects memory by increasing our memory because the neural connections are strengthened during sleep. 

Final Sleep Quiz

Question

How many stages of sleep are there in a sleep cycle?

Show answer

Answer

Four stages

Show question

Question

The four stages of sleep can be divided into two categories. What are they?

Show answer

Answer

REM and NREM sleep

Show question

Question

REM stands for ___________?

Show answer

Answer

Rapid Eye Movement

Show question

Question

In which stage of sleep do we dream?

Show answer

Answer

REM sleep

Show question

Question

In which stage are we likely to experience hypnogogic sensations?

Show answer

Answer

NREM Stage 1 

Show question

Question

The sensation of weightlessness or falling and suddenly jerking when you first slip off into sleep is examples of which of the following? 

Show answer

Answer

Hypnogogic Sensations

Show question

Question

Brief moments of sleep that last several seconds are _________?

Show answer

Answer

Micro-sleeps

Show question

Question

True or False: We can sleep without losing consciousness. 

Show answer

Answer

False

Show question

Question

In this sleep stage, we might experience fantastical sensations akin to hallucinations.

Show answer

Answer

NREM Stage 1

Show question

Question

Large, slow brain waves are called ________.

Show answer

Answer

Delta waves

Show question

Question

In which sleep stage do we usually see delta waves in the brain?

Show answer

Answer

NREM Stage 3

Show question

Question

What causes sleep paralysis? 

Show answer

Answer

During REM sleep, our brain stem blocks motor cortex activity. A temporary corporeal miscommunication during this stage is where the phenomenon of sleep paralysis comes from.

Show question

Question

What are 5 benefits of sleep?

Show answer

Answer

Protection, recuperation, memory, creativity, supports human growth hormone. 

Show question

Question

True or False: Sleep contributes to creativity? 

Show answer

Answer

True

Show question

Question

True or False: Sleep contributes to better memory? 

Show answer

Answer

True

Show question

Question

Who wrote extensively about dreams and believed they reflect our deepest desires?

Show answer

Answer

Sigmund Freud

Show question

Question

Which of the following is not a consequence of sleep disorders?

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Answer

All of these are consequences

Show question

Question

True or False? For adults, 6-7 hours of sleep is more than enough sleep. 

Show answer

Answer

False. Goal is 7-8 hours of sleep

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Question

True or False? Experts say it's important to keep regular sleeping and waking hours with as little deviation as possible. 

Show answer

Answer

True

Show question

Question

How can a lack of sleep affect a person with Alzheimer's?

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Answer

Lack of sleep can lead to a greater buildup of the toxic protein linked to producing plack in the brain that causes Alzheimer's. 

Show question

Question

Which of the following is not a benefit of sleep?

Show answer

Answer

All of these are benefits. Sleep is important!

Show question

Question

True or False? Impairments to our bodies and brains due to a lack of sleep can leave us vulnerable to almost any health crisis. 

Show answer

Answer

True

Show question

Question

One benefit of sleep is recuperation. With this in mind, why might sleep be especially important during adolescence?

Show answer

Answer

An important part of brain development during adolescence is an influx of neurogenesis and pruning. Sleep can help facilitate this process. 

Show question

Question

True or False? We can learn new information quicker and maintain it longer when rested.

Show answer

Answer

True

Show question

Question

What hormone does the pituitary gland release during our slow-wave sleep cycle?

Show answer

Answer

Human growth hormone

Show question

Question

How can sleep help athletes?

Show answer

Answer

Sleep promotes greater resilience and stamina. 


Show question

Question

Josie is driving home from work at 2am and next thing she knows, she hears a loud honk. She fell asleep at the wheel! Josie didn't realize she was sleep and it was only for a few seconds. What type of sleep did you just experience?

Show answer

Answer

Micro-sleeps

Show question

Question

What does NREM stand for?

Show answer

Answer

Non-rapid eye movement

Show question

Question

 _____________ are fantastical sensory experiences akin to hallucinations

Show answer

Answer

Hypnogogic sensations

Show question

Question

Tomorrow morning, you have to wake up early to go sleeping with your friends. You know you set your alarm, but the next thing you know you feel your roommate shaking you awake. You slept through your alarm! What stage of sleep were you likely in?

Show answer

Answer

NREM Stage 3

Show question

Question

At which stage of sleep could you experience a falling sensation?

Freepik.com

Show answer

Answer

NREM Stage 1

Show question

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