On a daily basis, everyone experiences a significant shift in consciousness.
We spend about a third of our lives sleeping. Dreaming gives us yet another state of consciousness.
People have studied dreams since the time of the ancient Egyptians. Proper systematic dream and sleep research has gained currency over the past fifty years. As technology advances, so does our ability to analyze how and why we dream.
Three distinct characteristics of the state of rest that is sleep are:
Back in 1950, a graduate student working alongside a researcher at the University of Chicago got the opportunity to monitor sleeping infants. He observed very noticeable changes in their eye movements.
There were stages where the eyes moved extremely swiftly then intervals with little to no eye movement at all.
Following this observation, the researchers noted that when adults are awakened during REM sleep, they almost always reported dreaming. If they lurched into consciousness during NREM sleep, on the other hand, they usually did not recall any dreams.
Since the 1950s, this research has been expanded upon considerably.
We now know two facts:
This makes it extremely tough to accurately estimate the proportion of dreaming between these two stages of sleep. Some people who come to during REM sleep don’t outline any dreams. Others exiting NREM sleep will demonstrate some vague recall of an event.
To generalize, NREM sleep is more dream-free than REM sleep. Any reported dreams in the REM stage tend to be more vivid, longer-lasting and visual.
Complex measuring devices like the EEG, EOG and EMG help to monitor movements of the eye and electrical activity in the muscles.
When we are awake, our brain waves include:
These beta waves are low-amplitude and high frequency.
As we reach a drowsy state, our breathing and heart rate slow down. Body temperature drops as muscles relax. We edge towards alpha waves.
The first, light stage of sleep is very brief.
Drifting off and moving through alpha and theta waves, we experience a state almost like daydreaming. It’s quite possible to fall into this kind of stage during the day, some being more prone than others.
During stage 1, we tend to get more hypnogocic hallucinations. Vibrant feelings like falling or hearing our names being called are accompanied by abrupt muscle contractions.
We then coast toward theta waves. This is a light period when we are neither properly awake nor asleep.
We normally fall asleep within 10 minutes although this varies considerably from person to person.
Another truncated period of maybe 20 minutes, we fall deeper into sleep during this stage.
Sleep spindles are very short bursts of brain activity produced during stage 2.
Our body temperature drops further and our heart rates slow up.
The K complex is another brain wave pattern experienced in this stage of sleep. It occurs in response to either an internal stimulus (stomach cramps, for example) or external stimuli like the sound of voices or vehicles.
This is a transitional period as we edge toward deeper sleep.
Delta waves – deep and slow brain waves – begin to emerge. When these waves make up 20-50% of any EEG tracing, we are in stage 3 heading toward dreamland.
This is also known as Delta Sleep.
Delta waves continue to build proportional to other brain waves. After the 50% mark has been reached, we are in stage 4, the deepest sleep of all.
Stage 4 lasts for about 30 minutes.
Problems like bedwetting or sleepwalking tend to manifest themselves toward the end of our deepest period of sleep.
It is quite difficult to be woken during this sleep segment. If you are roused by an alarm clock while in stage 4, there’s every chance you’ll feel groggy and disoriented.
There are virtually no eye movements during either stage 3 or 4.
We now leave NREM behind and move into REM sleep.
As well as rapid eye movement, our respiration rate and brain activity both surge upwards.
Other body systems become more active while muscles relax. Voluntary muscles become paralyzed. The rise in brain activity leads to dreaming.
The body features an inbuilt method of self-paralyzing to protect us. If you dream of being trapped, you in many senses are, unable to move of your own volition.
When we sleep, the above documented stages do not always happen sequentially.
Initially, we move from the first to fourth stage in order. Then, we repeat stage 3 and 2 before entering REM sleep. After REM, we normally go back to stage 2.
We experience 4 or 5 of these sleep cycles during the course of a night.
REM kicks in after about 90 minutes of sleep. The first REM cycle is often brief but becomes progressively longer. This can extend up to an hour at times.
Although sleep has been extensively studied and researched, it might be clear that we need to sleep. What is not so clear is why we need to sleep.
What is not so clear is why we need to sleep.
There are 4 main theories:
Over the course of a day, our bodies expend a great deal of energy.
When we sleep, our body has the chance to rest and recuperate.
In a study, subjects were monitored after running a 57-mile race. They slept for longer than normal afterward as you would expect. They also enjoyed much more deep sleep.
Linked to this idea is the concept that we sleep in order to conserve energy.
By taking ourselves out of commission for one-third of each day, we protect ourselves from exhaustion.
If we look back in history, in times where resources were more limited, sleeping was a great way to make these stretch further.
Each day, we are exposed to a colossal amount of information.
From the moment we wake until bedtime, we are bombarded with multimedia and a lot of this is clutter.
One school of thought suggests that we sleep in order to clear our minds of extraneous data. By sleeping and getting rid of this unwanted information, our brains are then more receptive to new learning.
Almost every subject every studied has exhibited signs of dreaming.
Since we all dream, this separate state of consciousness is highly likely to serve some important function. We are just not clear yet on what that, precisely, that function is.
Perhaps we really do need to dream…
Getting a good night’s sleep is essential if you want to enjoy great health.
Sleep restores energy and gives us sound minds, not to mention making our whole body rest and relax from a stressful day.
If you find yourself having problems sleeping then you owe it to yourself to read as much as possible on this topic. See what foods can benefit your sleep and what foods hinder it.
This fruit is considered among the very best for delivering a wonderful rest. Bananas contain potassium and magnesium which are both good for the heart. They also relax the muscles which promotes good sleep. Bananas also have vitamin B6 which is essential for the production of the sleep hormone Melatonin. They have carbohydrates and tryptophan as well which induce sleepiness.
Cherries – whether fresh, dried, frozen or juiced – also contain calcium and melatonin, the hormone that helps regulates our internal circadian rhythm. Tart cherry juice, though, gives only small improvements on sleep problems but at least it still helps with the issue. Two cups of tart cherry juice daily is recommended.
Carbs are proven very good for sleep. So, try munching whole grain cereals made up of barley, buckwheat, quinoa and kashi. Cereals often go with milk which also gives a restful sleep.
This a sandwich spread often used in crackers and salads. It contains L-tryptophan which encourages sleep and serotonin that helps relaxes the muscles. Hummus also has vitamin B6 that produces melatonin.
Snacking on lettuce an hour before sleeping can make you have a good night’s sleep. This vegetable contains Lactucarium which has a sedating effect on the brain. Try matching lettuce with kale and spinach for these veggies have an elevated calcium content that will stimulate tryptophan to kick in.
You may well remember that as a little child your parents made you drink a glass of warm milk in the lead-up to bedtime. This is mainly because it is believed to prompt a sound sleep and kids need that rest to grow up healthy and strong. Milk contains tryptophan, an amino acid which releases serotonin that makes the brain signal sleepiness to the body.
Pretzels are low calorie snacks that helps bring about sleep due to its carbohydrate content. An ounce of this gives our body two percent of magnesium which is a mineral known to give quality sleep. It is also suggested that a lack of magnesium in our body can alter your sleep for the worse. It is not always bad to snack before bedtime then!
Sweet potatoes are not just healthy complex carbohydrates that help with sleep issues. They can also make you release gas if you’re suffering from flatulence at bedtime. Its large potassium content aids in that sense too in that it also relaxes our muscles. It is also advised to include the skin when consuming sweet potatoes because more of its nutrients are contained there.
This delicious fish offers a high content of vitamin B6 which produces melatonin and tryptophan that gives out to serotonin. These are all essential for promoting good sleep. Be sure to consume tuna two hours before your planned sleep time to make certain it’s digested fully. This forces the healthy components to work best.
This bird might have protein like chicken but turkey also has tryptophan which counteracts the effects of protein for sleep purposes. This explains why Americans tend to fall asleep as soon as they get into bed after Thanksgiving meals!
Valerian tea is an herb derived from the flowers of Valerian roots. This herb is used by doctors along with melatonin and serotonin to help regulate and increase the amount of sleep (especially for those suffering from insomnia). Unlike other teas, Valerian doesn’t have caffeine in it. This medicine causes drowsiness and sedates the brain and CNS. It is also used for anxiety disorders, migraines and stomach upset. Valerian tea should be taken an hour before bedtime but with the advice of a doctor. It should not be taken for longer than two weeks to avoid dependency on the herb.
This high fat, salt-packed food is definitely one of the biggest no-no’s if you are yearning for a restful sleep. Fatty foods provoke the formulation of acid in the stomach and thus cause heartburn and acid reflux. In case you can’t avoid bingeing, be sure to wait an hour or two before snoozing as it can also cause nightmares when sleeping if you are still full from eating.
Protein is energy and thus it is essential to have it during the day where our bodies need to be up and running the whole time. Chicken in particular is very high in protein and consuming an excess of this meat tends to slow down digestion beyond 60% at night. Protein in chicken can make us feel energized and ready for action at bedtime. This may cause sleep apnea too if consumed right before sleeping as the body is taking time to digest the food. This may, of course, eventually lead to irritability and utter exhaustion the following day.
As has been said over and over again, coffee is sleep’s number one nemesis. Its caffeine content will definitely hamper your chances of good sleep. This is best taken only at breakfast because of its active stimulant effects on the CNS, one thing that everyone needs in order to stay awake the whole day to perform well. Or better yet, do not drink coffee at all.
Contrary to popular belief, dark chocolate is not that healthy at all. It causes more problems than regular chocolate when consumed before sleeping. This comfort food has a larger amount of caffeine than ordinary chocolate bars which may cause sleeplessness. Dark chocolate also has theobromine, a property toxic to dogs but very rare in humans (although if taken in huge amounts, it can lead to hyperventilation, palpitations, hypertension, stroke or even death).
Energy drinks are packed with even more caffeine than coffee. This boosts the waking factor of the body to keep you going even at those times you need to sleep. These drinks contain 80 to 242 milligrams of caffeine per drink. And, if you are into trying to have a good slumber, then it’s best to avoid taking these drinks at all.
Curry is packed with delicious, spicy seasoning that adds zest to an everyday meal. Curries are often OK but Indian curry is proven to impair good sleep and, even worse, may cause nightmares due to the spices present in it which also elevates blood pressure. Indigestion and accumulation of acids in the stomach are the common culprits. Since a hot Indian curry is harsh to the tummy, it’s best to eat this sort of meal in the day as people are usually busy and won’t be able to notice mild discomfort caused by the curry.
It is already a known factor that sodas contain caffeine so, needless to say, you should avoid drinking much of it at night. People nowadays are already used to pairing soft drinks with meals. And, if you are a food chain lover, chances are you’re guilty of this pleasure. Mountain Dew, for instance, has 71 milligrams of caffeine per serving. Pepsi and Coca Cola, on the other hand, don’t only contain caffeine but citrus and sodium benzoate at the same time. This stimulates acid production which may in turn cause acid reflux.
You will probably wonder what this healthy drink is doing in this category. Water isn’t really bad and does not contain any of the components that lead to sleep disruption but, drinking too much of it three hours before bedtime will cause you to pee all throughout the night. So, best take a sip or two after dinner and get most of your intake during the day.
Contrary to what some believe, drinking wine before sleeping is not a smart move. It brings on sleep faster but it causes disruptions in your sleep. The alcohol in wine causes snoring and frequent trips to the bathroom that can make sleeping back difficult. And, moreover, it can make you feel restless with headaches the next day.
We hope that this handy selection of what to embrace and avoid has given you food for thought.
Take action in any way you can and give yourself the sleep you so richly deserve.
We have previously looked at some great tips for getting a better night’s sleep.
One of the most crucial and simple steps of all in rejuvenating yourself with the sleep you deserve is having a bedroom which is conducive to relaxing and falling into dreamland as quickly and easily as possible.
Today we will walk you through some basic ways in which you can improve your chances of getting that fabled eight hours of rest even if you normally struggle with sleep.
The first thing to do is to try to remove as many distractions as possible from your bedroom.
It might not be possible or practical for everyone to achieve the kind of stripped-down pure minimalism pictured above.
As an example, though, it works well. The sole focus in this bedroom is an extremely comfortable bed with luxurious bedding and absolutely nothing to keep you from sleeping. No TV, no mess, nothing to stimulate you.
Without needing to go to such extremes – unless such minimalism is to your taste – simply try to get rid of anything unnecessary in the bedroom and see how this helps you to fall asleep more quickly and for longer.
Comfort is key and, before thinking about bed linen, the most fundamental issue to address is your mattress.
Perhaps this is stopping you from getting the sleep you deserve…
If so, invest in a new one.
One of the inbuilt problems with buying a new mattress is that what feels perfect in the shop might turn out to be less than ideal after you have properly tested it at home.
It’s fine to do your research online or at a store, whichever works best for you. Don’t get too hung up on the more esoteric features. You are looking for support and comfort.
Take your time and find a company that offer you the ability to return and exchange the mattress if it fails to live up to your expectations.
Now that you have something to sleep on maximized, it’s time to think about what you sleep in…
Go for some natural sheets in either Egyptian cotton or tree-fiber. Whatever your preference for color, choose something nice and soothing.
Although they are not cheap, think about treating yourself to a cashmere throw to go over the top.
Choose a duvet cover in silk to cover a thick and luxurious duvet.
And go for as many pillows as you can with the focus on hypoallergenic products.
If you surround yourself with the finest fabrics, you will feel much more comfortable and more inclined to drop off rapidly into a restful slumber.
In order to sleep with consummate ease, you really need a darkened environment. Make sure that blinds and drapes are closed when it comes to bed time.
Intrusion from street lights or even the moon can seriously disturb your ability to fall asleep.
If you are particularly sensitive to light or live in a bright area, think carefully about getting some heavily-lined blackout drapes to help you on your way to dream land.
In addition to a bedroom that looks nice and feels nice, it’s also key for your sanctuary to smell nice too.
One immediate tip is to spritz some lavender on your pillow. Lavender has been used for centuries to aid with sleep.
Another option is to use an essential oil diffuser and fill your room with the relaxing aroma of your favorite essential oils.
These devices come in all shapes and sizes so choose according to your taste and the design of your room. They are inexpensive and represent the most effective delivery system for essential oils.
If you are too hot and bothered, slipping into an invigorating sleep will be problematic.
When the temperature is lower, your body gets the message that it’s time to sleep.
Nobody is suggesting that you should be shivering as that will have the opposite effect but regulate the AC or heating so that it is slightly lower to kickstart your system into sleep mode.
An excellent way to lower the temperature of your own body is to have a bath before bed time. This is a win-win. A bath in itself is highly relaxing. Also, while you may heat up in the tub, your body’s response to this heat is to reduce your internal temperature.
Most of us use a cell phone for our alarm today. If this is the case, consider removing all other clocks from the bedroom.
If you have a clock which you do not want to remove then turn it to face away from you in bed.
If you wake in the night and see that it is not so long until it’s time for you to rise, this has a negative effect and often prevents you from dropping off again.
It takes practice but will repay the effort.
Put On Some Socks!
Wearing socks in bed has been shown to help you to sleep.
The reason is not absolutely clear but it does work. One suggestion is that this operates on the same principle as having a bath… With your feet and legs warmed up nicely, the body’s internal temperature drops thus promoting a healthy sleep.
If you have a clock radio with an LED display or an alarm clock with similar neon, think about ditching it.
Often, the body reacts subconsciously to even very dim lights and feels that it’s time to wake up.
In short, when it’s dark, your biological clock is inhibited and your brain gets the message that it’s time to sleep.
Work with this rather than against it and maximize your chance of avoiding insomnia.
If you pay attention to these handy hints and make your bedroom into a peaceful haven, you should notice a difference in any problems you have with sleeping.
Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have any queries about sleeping or sleep disorders.
According to experts, dreams are forms of brain activity that involve a string of imagined ideas, emotions, images, events and sensations. Dreams happen involuntarily in the mind while you are sleeping or sometimes even when you are awake.
Although we have a definition of dreams, even in this modern age no one can actually explain the exact reason why people dream. It’s still unclear how dreams ever get to transpire in one’s mind while sleeping just like you are watching a scene of yourself from a movie.
People who have researched this phenomenon come up with different theories. Some say dreams are the fulfillment of a person’s deepest desires to achieve something they cannot have in their waking state. Others refer to dreams as the subconscious mind’s enactment of what people unconsciously want to happen. Some believe that dreams are actually the opposite of what’s going to happen in real life.
Whatever is the real cause of dreaming, the fact remains that dreams can make you feel relaxed, happy, sad or even get stressed and scared while sleeping.
One important thing to note is that you can actually take control of your dreams. It is your dream. And in your dreams, you are the protagonist. You simply need to condition your mind and body before you sleep that it is just a dream.
And when you’re asleep and dreams start to happen, you tell yourself that you are dreaming and that you control everything. In that way, you can help prevent a bad dream from occurring.
For example, if you are flying in your dream and feel like you are going to fall, your brain is quick to act and tell your dream-self to keep on flying and you won’t fall in that dream. It is just a question of mind over matter tactics: conditioning your mind before you sleep.
Sigmund Freud, the renowned psychoanalyst and neurologist, once said that dreams are the windows into the subconscious mind. He added that dreaming is also a way for people to release their sexual urges and desires while asleep.
There are actually several varieties of dreams that people experiences throughout life. We will now examine the most common of these types of dreams…
1) Lucid Dreams
These dreams are due to the increased activation of some parts of the brain which are often subdued while asleep. Lucid dreaming is regarded as the state of the brain between REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep and being awake. This is that kind of dream wherein the person is actually aware that they are dreaming. Controlling your dreams, as mentioned above, can be achieved during lucid dreaming.
With lucid dreaming, you can focus on anything that you want to dream about before you sleep. All you need to do is condition your mind and body. It is where a person experiences and lives their daydreams but in a dream.
Daydreaming is essentially living out your fantasies and imagination inside your waking mind.
This type of dream can happen anytime, anywhere while awake depending on the person’s liking. It is sometimes used as an escape from the real situations in life which don’t lead to happiness or contentment.
When a person daydreams, their thoughts are temporarily being transported to another world, the world of dreams. They become unaware of their surroundings for a moment and they think that what they are dreaming of is real. This is why some daydreamers can be seen smiling or seemed to be in a trance.
A nightmare is a scary, terrifying and distressing bad dream.
People who have nightmares experience frightening scenes in their dreams. This can sometimes be so horrifying that a person wakes up gasping for breath or totally scared and confused, often very grateful it was just a dream.
Nightmares occur more in women than men. Common causes include illness, medication, anxiety, stress and sometimes fatigue. Sleeping directly after eating can also contribute at times.
In children, however, nightmares are almost always associated with being chased by animals. Experts say that kids having bad dreams is completely normal and related to their development and environment.
4) Wet Dreams
This is a dream which mostly happens in pubertal boys and men. It is part of the natural process of growing up. Having wet dreams means releasing semen while dreaming and this is caused if a guy dreams of having sex. This dream can be carried over into their emotions resulting in night-time ejaculation.
There are reports about girls and women experiencing wet dreams too but very rarely do they get to have sexual orgasms like men while dreaming.
5) False Awakening Dreams
These false awakening dreams are most commonly called a dream within a dream. They occur in the middle of a dream.
It’s a type of dream wherein the dreamers think they are already awake and doing things. In fact, they are still asleep and dreaming not actually performing the deed. False awakening dreams usually happen to lucid dreamers. Actions carried out seem to be so real for the dreamer. This perceived reality renders them totally unaware that it was just a dream.
Mostly, false awakenings get repeated multiple times and the same actions are executed repeatedly until the person finally awakens and realizes they were just dreaming.
One tip, though: if you are experiencing this type of dream, get up once you wake to avoid repeating it again. Walk around in or out of the room and do something like drink water or eat just to wake your system fully before going back to bed.
6) Recurring Dreams
This is a very common type of dream which contains messages about one’s self or life. It may be about something that is unconsciously bothering the person or something that they most long to do or have.
Most of the time, this dream is frightening and almost mimics a nightmare. This, though, is just the mind’s way of communicating through dreams that there are things we need to do or accomplish which in waking life we tend to dismiss or even forget.
However mysterious dreams may be, no one can easily say that they never felt better or happier when they are in dreamland. It is where one’s wishes and desires are attained.
Maybe, at times, it turns to be a bad dream but always remember that dreams can convey messages and that you should pay attention to them.
Dreams are free and in dreams we can be whoever and whatever we want but let us not live in dreams alone. Be attentive and try to do something to live those dreams.
There are many different sleep disorders and one of these is the ominous sounding sleep paralysis.
Have you ever experienced the feeling of being awake yet at the same time being unable to move? If so, perhaps you have been overwhelmed with fear without being able to call for help.
This is a condition called sleep paralysis.
Some people only suffer a single outbreak. For others it can be a more regular occurrence, sometimes even happening several times in one night. It’s actually surprisingly common with over 3 million cases each year reported in the US alone.
One piece of good news to start off with is that sleep paralysis is not a serious health problem.
We will look in this article at what, precisely, this disorder is. We’ll also examine how you can diagnose and treat the problem as well as a quick glance at the two different varieties.
In a nutshell, sleep paralysis is when you feel conscious but at the same time you are not able to move your body. It takes place when you move from a state of wakefulness to one of sleep.
While you undergo these shifts of state, it may be only seconds or maybe minutes before you regain the ability to move or speak properly.
Accompanying problems are a feeling of choking or abnormal pressure. Both of these, obviously, can cause quite a scare. The worst scenario is when this is partnered with hallucinations. A sense of dread and sometimes even a supernatural creature lurking combine to make sleep paralysis a terrifying ordeal.
It’s understandably very frightening, especially if you happen to see or hear things which are not really there. Some people who are beset by sleep paralysis feel that there is an intruder in the room. Other explanations point to an incubus (a kind of demon) or vestibular motor sensations (those hallucinations). We will examine here the science behind it which explains it in a rather less dramatic manner.
It can occur alongside other sleep disorders such as narcolepsy.
There are two main times when it kicks in, either while you are falling asleep or just as you are about to wake.
So these are the two particular times of the night when you are at risk from sleep paralysis. It most often presents itself during teenage years and is likely to recur in the 20s and 30s. Although it may possibly continue as you age and it’s undeniably a scary state of affairs, there’s no serious health risk associated with this parasomnia.
It’s really rather a commonplace disorder with as many as 4 in 10 people of both sexes suffering from it at some stage.
It can be hereditary and there are also a number of factors which can increase your risk. Those who abuse substances or certain OTC medication can bring about this disturbing problem. If you suffer from existing mental conditions such as bipolar disorder then you are also more likely to find this happening to you. Parallel sleep issues such as narcolepsy or cramps can also provoke sleep paralysis. In addition to these elements, a lack of sleep in general or shifting sleeping patterns can also make things worse. As a handy tip, try to avoid sleeping on your back as this can increase the chance of an outbreak.
If the situation outlined above takes you by surprise and you are unable to speak or move before or after sleeping, there’s a high chance it’s a case of isolated recurrent sleep paralysis.
There’s no need to panic. As stated, it’s very common and nothing to worry about. Most of the time there is no need to pursue any kind of treatment.
If your symptoms cause you to feel at all anxious, tired during the day or unable to sleep properly then it’s a smart move to consult a doctor.
Try keeping a sleep diary for a period of a week or so. Describe any symptoms with as much detail as you can muster. The doctor may quiz you about any sleep disorders which run in the family and in some cases even refer you to a sleep specialist. Sleep studies, either overnight or during the day, can be conducted if necessary.
So, diagnosis is pretty straightforward and do not hesitate to seek medical advice if you want reassurance.
As stated, most people who encounter sleep paralysis have no need of any treatment at all.
When treatment is necessary, the focus is normally on dealing with any partnering leg cramps or disorders such as narcolepsy. Sorting out these problems often eliminates the sleep paralysis.
Some antidepressants can positively regulate your sleep cycles. It’s crucial to deal with any mental health flashpoints which can provoke sleep paralysis. Do not ignore them. Seek the help of your doctor and explore what medications are on offer.
That aside, the idea of most treatment is to take steps to improve overall sleep health which in turn should drastically reduce the chance of sleep paralysis happening again.
There is no denying that someone experiencing sleep paralysis is likely to feel concerned. If you understand the simple reasons why this happens and take action to improve your overall sleep health, it should not be an ongoing issue.
Get yourself checked out by your doctor if necessary and don’t worry. There is nothing serious about sleep paralysis. Think of it as no more than a bad dream!