Why Do We Need Sleep?
Sleep is a natural, recurring condition of the body and brain, characterized by decreased awareness, lessened behavioral activity, decreased muscle activity and decreased interactions with the outside world during rapid eye movement sleep (REM), and decreased emotional responses to stimuli during non-REM sleep. Sleep is a complex process that requires different types of sleep for different physiological needs and levels. Sleep is produced through the human body’s physiology and is not a purely psychological phenomenon. The amount of sleep required is different for everyone.
Stage I sleep or waking up is the first few moments of waking life and is followed by four more stages in rapid eye movement sleep (REM), before falling into the Stage II non-REM sleep. In the middle of the night the human body goes through the three stages of sleep. Stage III is the deepest sleep. In the third stage the body is in the most REM-like state possible. Finally, at the fourth stage, the person is in a state where waking up would be difficult if not impossible.
Rapid eye movement sleep (REM) is the sleep stage in which most motor functions are consolidated. The major functions that are activated during REM sleep include breathing, heart rate, muscle relaxation, and brain wave activities such as alpha and theta waves. The pineal gland is responsible for producing melatonin, a hormone that regulates sleep and circadian rhythms. The number of non-REM sleep bouts that the body takes during the course of a day is dependent on the level of melatonin produced.
The four main sleep stages, Stage I, Stage II, Stage III, and Stage IV, all take about four hours. Some individuals reach Stage V, a state in which they sleep for six to eight hours. There are five periods of sleep cycles during the night, each of which lasts a few minutes. Most individuals enter Stage I after their first period of sleep. As they sleep, their brain is active and exploring the world around them. When they awaken, they are in a state of waking up, but they are not really awake because they are in a more relaxed brainwave state.
There are several causes of why people cannot sleep well. Stress, anxiety, insomnia, depression, withdrawal from stimulants, skipping meals, extreme excitement or fear, eating or drinking too much, or avoiding sleep for one reason or another can all result in a person’s inability to sleep. If any of these situations are present when an individual is trying to fall asleep, then it is best to seek professional help. There are certain medications that can help individuals fall asleep, such as Ritalin. Individuals who are unable to sleep should also avoid caffeine, nicotine, alcohol, and spicy foods.
Individuals who are unable to sleep will exhibit different symptoms, some of which are lack of alertness, increased drowsiness, increased muscle tension, irritability, lack of concentration, and increased dreamtime. This sleep disorder can be extremely frustrating, and if not addressed may lead to serious physical disorders. These sleep disorders are the direct result of the brain, not having enough sleep during the night time. Once an individual has fallen asleep and then suffered nightmares, they are less likely to get enough sleep the next night. People need sleep, it is essential.