- Personal Health Information & Self-Help
What is Sleep?
Sleeping is a truly remarkable experience.Nothing beats the energized feeling that is accomplished with a full night's rest. Dreams can be some of the most vivid memories we carry with us. Sleep can also be a very interesting topic to learn and talk about.
Did you know?
Ever wonder why some nights a thunderstorm wakes you up and other nights you sleep right through one? It would depend on what stage of sleep you were in when the storm occurred. You are less likely to be awaken in N3 than you are in N1 ,for example.
Snoring only occurs in non-Rem sleep.
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines sleep as "the natural periodic suspension of consciousness during which the powers of the body are restored" It is weird to really sit and think about this definition. Sleep is your body's way of escaping from the world. It is a period where most of your external stimuli are blocked, and you can truly let your mind and body rest.
Stages of Sleep
Before you can truly understand sleep, you should realize that a lot more happens to your body during slumber than you may think. There are 2 main types of sleep that a person goes through every night:
Non-REM (NREM)- This type of sleep consists of 4 stages of sleep. Sleep gets increasingly deeper in these stages.
REM (Rapid Eye Movement)- Your eyes actually move rapidly during this stage, hence the name. Most dreams and brain activity occur in this stage of sleep.
Facts about the Stages of Sleep
- Non REM sleep is made up of 4 stages: N1 (transition to sleep), N2 (light sleep), and N2 (Deep sleep)
- The average person drifts into REM sleep approximately 90 minutes after falling asleep.
Dreams seem to fascinate everyone, so it is hard to talk about sleep without at least mentioning dreams. Some quick facts on dreams include:
- The average person has about 4 dreams a night, which equals around 1,460 dreams per year.
- Smokers that suddenly quit, often report having more vivid dreams than when they smoked. They also tend to remember their dreams better.
- When deprived of dreams, a person can often become irritable and disoriented, often hallucinating.
- Males are reported to appear in dreams more often than females. This holds true in the dreams of females, males, children, and adults.
- Nightmares can act as a coping mechanism, and can help you deal with problems in the real world much easier. Some people believe that nightmares prepare us for dangerous or hard situations that we may face in the future.
Why is sleep important?
The answer to this question is quite simple; sleep is good for you! Your body needs sleep, to survive, just as much as it needs water and food. There are many health benefits to getting the proper hours of sleep every night.
Health Benefits of Sleep
- Sleep is the time that your body needs to repair itself. Extra protein molecules are produced during sleep that help the body repair cells and fight off infections. Not getting enough sleep can make a person's immune system very weak.
- Sleep helps your brain. Get enough sleep and, your memory will be better, your stress level will be down, and you will be less likely to become depressed or irritated.
- Sleep produces chemicals and hormones that help control appetite. Lack of sleep can lead to weight gain.
3 months- 1 year
18 and over
Did you know?
Studies show that after being awake for 17 consecutive hours, a person's performance level is equivalent to a blood alcohol level of .05 percent.
How Much Sleep Do You Need?
The National Institute of Health did a survey that found that the average adult gets about 7 hours of sleep a night. Sounds pretty good, right? This may not be the case. It is hard to pinpoint an exact number of sleep that people need. Just like with most other things, every person's needs are unique to that person. Factors such as health and age can change the amount of sleep needed. One person may be perfectly healthy with only 7 hours of sleep, where only 7 hours of sleep may lead another person to sleep deprivation. Although there are recommended guidelines, it is important that each person figures out how much sleep they need on an individual basis. Consult a doctor is you are having difficulty sleeping or need help figuring out if you or your child are getting enough sleep.
If you do not get enough sleep, there can be many consequences. Weight gain, lower intolerance to pain, memory loss, weaker immune system, poor moods, and depression can all result from lack of sleep.
Signs that You are Not Getting the Proper Amount of Sleep
- Difficulty getting out of bed in the morning
- Relying on an alarm clock to wake up, and using the snooze button regularly
- Feeling tired in the afternoons
- Falling asleep in class or at work
- Falling asleep on the couch while watching tv
- Falling asleep as soon as your head hits the pillow
- Feeling too tired to do daily activities such as playing with your children, chores, etc
- Getting sick often
- Trouble maintaining weight
Your body has a biological clock that reacts to light and darkness. It is possible to change your biological clock, but it takes time. It can take anywhere from 1 to 3 weeks for your body to adjust to different time zones, night shifts, and other reasons for changes in your sleep cycle.
Ways to Help Ensure A Good Night's Sleep
Make sure that you make sleep a priority in your life. Make time for sleep. It may seem like you are making the best decision when staying up late to finish up work, catch up on housework, or for cramming in some extra study time, but in reality you are harming yourself more than helping. Set a bedtime, and try your best to stick to it every night. Having a regular sleep schedule will help you fall asleep faster, and it means you are more likely to actually get the proper amount of sleep. Some extra tips for getting a better night's rest include:
- Waking up at the same time everyday. This includes weekends or your day off. Try not to let yourself sleep in for more than an hour on these days, because it can disturb your sleep cycle and make it hard to fall asleep the following night.
- Your body has a natural reaction to light. Light signals to your brain that it is time to wake up, and your body does not know the difference between sunlight and artificial light. Avoid television and computer screens for the last hour before trying to fall asleep. Try reading or taking a hot bath instead to give your body time to wind down.
- Avoid eating in the last 4 hours before trying to fall asleep. Give your body time to digest the food before trying to lay down for the night.
- Nicotine is a stimulant, so do not smoke right before bedtime.
- Set the scene for a good night's sleep. Make sure your bedroom is dark and cool. Sleep in a firm, yet comfortable bed. Wear clothes that aren't too tight, and are comfortable.
- Some people find it easier to fall asleep if they choose a physical cue that sends a signal to their brain that it is time to go to sleep. (Children do this all the time as they fall asleep while sucking their thumbs). Your cue could be something like playing with your hair, or gently rubbing your forehead with your thumb. After a few weeks, your body will begin to naturally feel tired as you use your "bedtime" signal. Make sure to only use your cue when you are in bed, and ready to go to sleep.
Find a sleep pattern and routine that works for you. You deserve a good night's sleep, so make a strong effort to reward your body with the rest it needs every night.
On average, how many hours of sleep do you get a night?
Sources for More Information
- 99 Interesting Facts about Dreams
Random dream facts, including analysis, statistics, history, and cultural influence.
- Benefits Of Sleep - Why Is Sleep So Important?
The benefits of sleep are much greater than many of us realize. Learn why sleep is so important, and how to...
- How Much Sleep Do You Need? Sleep Cycles, Stages, & Lack of Sleep
How many hours of sleep do you need? What happens when you don't get enough? Explore the cycles and stages of sleep and how to recover from sleep debt.