The various stages of sleep are characterized by distinct features. For example, the brainwave patterns during the NREM (Non-Responsive Effluent Memory) phase of sleep are different from those of awake sleep. The differences between the two states are also marked by their reversibility, recurrence, and spontaneity.
During sleep, the brain consolidates memories and is more receptive to learning. This helps our brains function properly and maintain emotional stability. For instance, if we try to learn a new video game, those who sleep afterwards perform better than those who stay awake. This was demonstrated in a study published in the journal Natural Neuroscience.
The process of sleep affects nearly every type of tissue in our bodies. It also influences our mood, immune system, and disease resistance. Lack of sleep can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, depression, and obesity. Research on sleep has led to new theories and methods for understanding the process. It is important to understand what sleep involves to optimize your health.
In mammals, REM sleep is characterized by a decreased muscle tone and low-voltage mixed-frequency EEG. Low-frequency EEG signals during this time indicate increased motor inhibition. This inhibition is thought to originate in a part of the brainstem called the locus ceruleus. The destruction of this region is believed to result in goal-directed behavior during REM sleep.
The biological clock is another important factor in regulating sleep. It controls the daily cycles of our growth, reproduction, and aging. It is also responsible for our circadian rhythms. These rhythms help us sleep better at different times of the day. Taking naps or using electronic devices prior to bedtime can disrupt this cycle.
Researchers have extended the physiological approach to study sleep. This approach can provide additional information about brain activities in the absence of goal-directed behavior. For example, scientists can now study EEG signals in animals, which are externally measurable and can provide information about brain activities. This may help scientists to identify specific brain structures involved in the process of sleep.
Regardless of the cause, chronic lack of sleep is a major health problem. Fortunately, the disorder is treatable. A healthy diet and positive lifestyle habits can help ensure adequate sleep. Whether a person has sleep apnea or is suffering from shift work, doctors can help him/her manage his or her daily activities.