Sleep and Dreams

Do you ever feel sleepy during the day? If so, you are familiar with the powerful need for sleep. However, you may not realize that sleep is as essential for your well-being as food and water.

Until the mid 1800s, most people thought of sleep as a passive part of our daily lives. We now know that our brains are very active during sleep. It affects our physical and mental health in many ways.

"Sleep is the intermediate state between wakefulness and death; wakefulness being regarded as the active state of all the animals and intellectual functions, and death as that of their total suspension." ~ Rober McNish

Sleep is very important to health, and not enough of it can lead to issues with immune system, heart and circulatory system, hormone secretion and many other systems. Insufficient sleep can also lead to memory problems.

Here are some question/answers about the third of your life...(sleep)

Sleeping in cold...

Is temperature important for sleep?

It is easier to fall sleep in slightly cooler environment since our body temperature also dips during sleep. Also if you like to be under your sheets it helps you sleep better if you are sweating. Extremes of temperature disrupt sleep.

How does light/darkness affect sleep?

Light increases wakefulness because it activates special cells in our retina that start a chain reaction in parts of the brain which regulate sleep.

Do I need 8 hours of sleep every night?

Not everyone need 8 hours of sleep a night. An adult requires between 7.5-8.5 hours of sleep a night however this varies widely for each individual depending on age, genetics, and amount of physical and mental activity. In rare cases people can get by with as little as 4 hours of sleep while some need 10 hours a day to function properly. Eating healthy, exercise, comfortable bed, removing distractions like TV and phones (that bubble game will still be there in the morning), room temperature, and most importantly sleeping and waking at the same time each night and day is not only good for your health but also will help you not be tired with less than 8 hours of sleep.

Dreaming...

Why do I dream sometimes?

Everyone dreams but not everyone remember them when they wake. Under normal circumstances, we enter sleep through NREM sleep (at the start of this stage you are most likely to waken easily while the longer you are in this stage more difficult it gets) and this cycles with REM sleep (at this stage we dream, if woken from this stage, you are likely to have vivid recall of the dream most of the time) at about 90-110 minute intervals. Adults usually experience 4-5 REM periods during the time they are sleep (multiple dreams, could be related to each other).

What is a "night owl" and "early bird"?

Night owls are those who stay up late and function well later in the day while early birds get in bed early and wake early. These differences are genetic and are caused by a small mutation in circadian clock genes. Mutation in these genes can also help us adapt to life in different environments with different levels of light.

What could cause sleep disruption?

If you smoke, drink 6 cups/glasses/cans of coffee/tea/soda, drinkaholic/beer/wine often, have work/home stress, do not exercise enough or not physically active, your might be impacting your sleep negatively. Of course there's loud neighbors and bed-mates with sleep disorders might cause you to lose some sleep also.

How does drugs affect sleep?

There are obviously too many drugs to mention but some common drugs and affects are below:

DRUG EFFECT ON SLEEP
Alcohol Suppresses REM sleep; increases frequency of wakenings
Beta-blockers Suppresses REM sleep; can cause nightmares an increases daytime sleepiness
Benzodiazepines Can lead to daytime drowsiness and memory/mood impairments
Fluoxetine Affects REM sleep and can cause insomnia
Phenytoin Suppresses REM sleep and increases sleepiness
Pseudoephedrine Can cause insomnia
Salbutamol Can cause insomnia
Steroids Can cause sleep disruption and insomnia
Simvastatin Can lead to insomnia
Theophylline Can resutl in sleep disturbances and insomnia

What do dreams mean?

It is impossible to generalize about individual dreams which means that your dreams have meaning only for you and are specific to your life. Some believe that they are sign which tell of the future and there has been cases where people have dreamed of the future like Abraham Lincoln (as the story goes).

Lucid dreaming...

What is lucid dreaming?

Lucid dreaming is the conscious perception of one's dream sometimes enabling direct control over the content of the dreams. These are not nightmares. Nightmares are caused by personality factors and psychological issues.

There is a lot more we can say about sleep but this should be a good start to understanding how it affects us and what to do and/or avoid in order to get a good night sleep.