Sleep is a normally recurring state of body and mind, characterized by reduced awareness, lowered body movement, reduced sensory activities, decreased muscle activity and less inhibition of almost all voluntary skeletal muscles during REM sleep, and decreased interactions with external environment during deep sleep. During the dream state, we are more prone to having out-of-body experiences and thus, are more likely to have vivid dreams. The quality and length of sleep vary from person to person and are influenced by numerous factors such as age, sleeping duration, circadian rhythms and lifestyle. Some individuals are known to sleep for very long hours while others have poor sleep hygiene.
In order to understand sleep and its cycles, it helps to have a better understanding of the four stages of sleep. Stage one – the waking stage – is the first few minutes of consciousness. This is the stage where most motor functions and behavioral patterns are established. When this first stage ends, the individual starts to become aware of internal processes and begins to evaluate the day’s events through self-obspection and rational thinking. If there are no interruptions, then this is the time when the individual starts dreaming and will eventually wake up in the next day.
Stage two – the four stages of sleep that occur during sleep cycles – include rapid eye movement sleep (REMS), rapid eye movement sleep (REMS+), non REM sleep (NREM), and non REM sleep. This is the second period of sleep. During the four stages of sleep, the body and mind tends to adjust itself to the day’s circumstances and learn new ways to deal with stress and concerns. This is also the period where dream activity is more likely to occur. The dreamer may experience vivid dreams that usually have symbolic meaning, though some dreams are not always related to any particular events or things.
The fourth stage of sleep is the deepest part of sleep. It is the time where most dreams will be realized and interpreted. The quality and duration of the dreams will be different for different people, depending on their degree of complexity and the depth of their dream. For people who sleep only a few hours each night, the dream may be very brief or may last as long as a whole night for them; however, for those who sleep at seven or eight hours per night, the dreams are often more complicated and may last as long as an entire week for them.
Although there are no medical studies that confirm the link between sleep deprivation and the development of cancer, the relationship between the two may still cause concern. Studies show that getting too much sleep is not good for the health and does not lower the chances of getting cancer. However, there are many instances of how sleep deprivation has caused problems in people. Those who have gone through traumatic experiences and have low levels of confidence may find themselves losing sleep constantly due to their mental state. Those who are undergoing treatment for serious illnesses are often prescribed sleeping pills to combat the effects of their medications and keep them from developing a dependence on them.
According to Dr. Richard Lazarus, “anybody can go through stage one n REM or stage two n REM sleep. But not everybody can get to the final third stage of stage three and four sleep.” Anyone who has been keeping count at the end of the day is familiar with the feeling of waking up refreshed and full of energy. However, not everyone can actually pinpoint the exact moment they hit the end of the night. Because of the lack of scientific research regarding the mechanics of sleep stages, this remains a debatable topic.