The Importance of Sleep and the Four Stages of Sleep
Sleep is a state of body and brain, characterized by decreased awareness, usually reduced sensory activity, lowered motor activity, decreased muscle tone and strength during REM sleep, and decreased interactions with the surrounding environment during non-rapid eye movement sleep (NREM sleep). During sleep, the brain reorganizes and releases the chemicals and proteins associated with sleep and memory. Sleep is necessary for repair of many cellular and chemical reactions in the brain and restoration of brain cells following tissue damage during the day. The majority of living tissue is composed of nerve cells and glial cells.
It is imperative to provide the body with adequate amounts of sleep and adequate means of relaxation techniques in order to maintain normal health and optimal levels of functioning. The optimum sleep/restorative cycle depends on the state or activity of the patient’s sleeping body. When sleep is interrupted, the body becomes stressed, painful and weak. When people are deprived of sleep, their bodies become exhausted and they are unable to perform their daily functions normally.
Most individuals have a pattern in their sleep that relates to the duration and amount of sleep they require. Those who sleep well can fall asleep for a long period before feeling tired. This type of pattern enables them to conserve energy and prevent the development of poor-quality daytime sleep. Those who need less sleep are often those with poor quality sleep and higher stress levels. They can develop chronic insomnia and various diseases, such as diabetes and heart disease.
The function of the brain and its relationship to sleep is the subject of recent research and the results are not very encouraging. Studies have shown that there is a strong relationship between the degree of muscle activity and the duration of sleep. In fact, researchers found that some people are able to sleep through the muscle relaxation that is needed to reduce stress. However, the same study showed that when the body goes into a state of wakefulness, the amount of muscle activity actually rises.
While getting enough sleep is critical to good physical health, the mental health of an individual is equally important. Researchers have found that individuals who are sleep deprived do not perform at their best or worse than those who are getting enough sleep. In addition to the lack of physical health, those suffering from sleep deprivation experience mental health problems, such as depression, anxiety and stress. These problems increase the risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke and other health problems. It has been found that the risk of developing heart disease increases by as much as 40% during periods of extreme sleepiness. Even minor changes in sleep and the circadian rhythm are enough to create major changes in your mental health.
Although it is possible to sleep through the four stages of sleep, the body will not go to sleep automatically. Therefore, you will not get the restorative sleep that is necessary for restoration of chemical, physical and emotional balance. There are several devices that can be used to help you fall asleep, including specially designed pillows, audio recordings, and blue-ray machines. These are all options that can be explored to improve the quality of your sleep.