What is sleep, and why is it important?

Sleep is such a naturally occurring condition of body and mind, which can be symbolized by modified consciousness, comparatively restricted neurological performance, decreased muscle movements, suppression of almost every voluntary muscle during the stage of rapid eye movement (REM), and extremely diminished interaction with the environment. It can be distinguished from the condition of waking by analyzing the reduced ability of producing a response in order to cater a stimulus in the surrounding; however, this is very different from the coma and disorders of consciousness because sleep is a more reactive condition with the brain displaying diverse and effective patterns.

Having a fancy amount of sleep daily is as important for survival as is food and water. It’s a vital part of your daily routine. With the lack of sleep, an individual’s brain might not be able to develop and maintain the connections and pathways that allow them to learn and form new memories. In addition to this, it also leads to decreased concentration levels and delayed response time. Sleep also determines the way neurons communicate with each other. Recent researches prove that sleep plays a key role in clearing out all the toxins from your brain that are accumulated in the time when you are awake. During your sleep, the brain filters out the previous day’s happenings, refreshes the memory and initiates the release of hormones that regulate the human energy, mood, and the capability of the mind to perform specific actions. While in sleep, the body is in the building phase which aids in restoring and improving the immune, nervous, and other systems that deal with muscles and bones formation.

 

What factors and things play a role in the sleep process and help initiate the sleep phases?

Multiple structures within our brain are involved with the sleep process and control all the phases.

The hypothalamus is a structure that is present in the deep core of the brain, and this consists of several groups of nerve cells that act as the control centers of sleep. It also consists of Suprachiasmatic Nucleus (SCN), which is a cluster of thousands of cells that gain information about the light exposure directly from the eyes and thus control your sleeping rhythm.

The brain stem, located at the bottom of the brain, synergizes with the hypothalamus to monitor the transitions between sleep and waking periods. Sleep-promoting tissues and cells present within the hypothalamus and brain stem release a chemical known by the name of GABA, which ensures the reduction of activity of the arousal centers in the brain stem and the hypothalamus and initiates the sleep process.

The thalamus plays the role of a transmitter of information from senses to the cerebral cortex. For a major part of sleep, the thalamus remains inactive and allows the brain to dissociate from the external world. However, during the REM phase/stage of sleep, the thalamus is working effectively by sending out all the cortex images, sound, and remaining sensations that fill our dreams.

The pineal gland gets the signals from SCN and boosts the production of melatonin, a hormone that aids in putting you to sleep after the lights have gone off. Melatonin highs and lows are of immense importance in order to match the circadian rhythm of the body to the exogenous cycle of darkness and light.

The circadian clock is a complicated neurological system that makes effective use of the signals received from the surroundings of an organism in order to create a day and night rhythm based on changes in temperature within the body of an individual. This rhythm is known as circadian rhythm and allows the person to manage its sleep and waking patterns accordingly.

Process S refers to the theory that the more time an organism spends while awake; the increased need for sleep is demanded by it. This balance between the acts of waking up and sleeping is primarily monitored by a process known as homeostasis.

 

Sleep Phases

When a person sleeps, he progresses through a series of sleep phases, also called the stages of the sleep cycle.  Electroencephalograph (EEG) invention helped the scientists to study and monitor the sleeping patterns of a human being. Progress on sleep studies later showed that the sleep of a person progresses through different stages where the brain displayed different patterns in each stage.

There are two main types of sleep which are named as:

  1. Non – rapid eye movement (NREM)
  2. Rapid eye movement (REM)

 

The first 3 stages of sleep are of NREM, and the 4th stage is of REM.

 

NREM stage 1:

This is the initiation of the sleep cycle and is comparatively lower or weak level of sleep. It is also referred to as the progression period from being awake to sleep. In this stage, the brain generates high amplitude waves of theta. Such waves are considered sluggish. This stage of sleep lasts for a very short time of approximately 5 to 10 minutes. If someone is made to wake up from this stage, it is highly probable they might inform that they didn’t really sleep.

 

NREM stage 2:

This is the second stage/phase of the sleep cycle, and it lasts for around 20 minutes. In this stage, people become less acquainted with their environment. The brain kicks off the bursts of swift, rhythmic brain activity called the sleep spindles. The temperature of the body drops and the heart rate becomes more regular.

 

 

NREM stage 3:

 

This stage was previously a combination of stages 3 and 4, but later, they were incorporated into a single stage. Deep, slow neurons or brain waves also known as delta waves, start forming during this stage. Therefore, this stage is also referred to as the delta stage. In this phase, the people become relatively highly unresponsive, rhythmic, and the stimuli of surroundings might fail to generate a response. This stage acts as a bridge between light and very deep sleep.

 

REM sleep:

REM sleep is another sleep phase that is symbolized by the movement of the eye, augmented respiration rate, and boosted brain functioning. American Sleep Foundation implies that approximately 20% of sleep is dedicated to this phase of sleep. This phase is also referred to as paradoxical sleep because of the fact that even though brain activity has increased but the muscles are more relaxed than before. Dreaming takes place in this phase because of increased brain functioning and immobilization of voluntary muscles. The person enters this REM sleep stage after approximately 90 minutes of falling asleep, and it usually lasts for approximately an hour.

 

 

Delayed sleep phase

 

This refers to the delay in the sleep of a person by 2 or more hours relative to the socially and conventionally acceptable sleeping time. This condition can also be considered as a disorder known as delayed sleep phase disorder/syndrome. This syndrome reflects a serious dysregulation of an individual’s circadian rhythm in comparison to those of normal people. This disorder tends to affect the timing of sleep, the core temperature of the body, the effective working ability of the body, hormonal, and several other daily cycles. People suffering from DSPD have a circadian period of longer than 24 hours, and they generally sleep hours after midnight and find it difficult to wake up early in the morning. This disorder accounts for 7-10 % of patients complaining about insomnia. Doctors often misdiagnose DSPD as primary insomnia, or else it is considered as a psychiatric condition and therefore remains untreated in many cases. It can be treated or helped by implementing careful sleep practices, earlier exercises, medications like melatonin and proper mealtimes.

 

 

Sleep phase disorders

There are several sleep phase disorders that are common among the people and prevent them from sleeping properly and get enough sleep. Some of these disorders are explained below.

  • Insomnia:

It is the most common sleep disorder with a great number of adults reporting occasional insomnia, whereas 10-15 % reports a severe condition. It can be caused due to psychological stress, unfriendly sleeping conditions, fluctuating sleep schedule or stress-causing activities before sleep time and using stimulants such as caffeine, which prevent sleeping. It can be recovered through a proper sleeping schedule, avoiding the use of stimulants, and a friendly environment.

 

 

  • Obstructive sleep apnea:

A condition in which significant breaks in breathing occur during sleep, which disturbs the normal sleeping pattern and often leading to other severe health issues. It is more common as compared to central sleep apnea.

 

Hypersomnia:

It is a condition in which the individual finds it difficult to stay awake during the daytime.

 

REM sleep behaving disorder (RBD):

For an individual having RBD, the paralysis, which is usually present during REM sleep is incomplete or not in place at all, which allows people to ‘act out ‘their dreams.

Apart from these disorders, there are several other disorders related to sleep.

 

Where to find the products which help you sleep well?

Go to: Neuroon.com, 

  The perfect place to find a cure to all the problems faced by people who have difficulty in sleeping. This website offers sleeping masks and all other products which aid the sleeping process and helps people in developing a good sleep schedule. The website acts as a community welfare platform, which gives the people access to the most effective products for aiding in sleep and helps them achieve ideal sleeping patterns.

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