Monthly Affirmation

may I be I is the only prayer - not may I be great or good or beautiful or wise or strong. ~e.e. cummings

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Silently counting sheep for sleep

What is sleep? How much of it do you need? Why do we have insomnia some nights? Questions that really do not plague me but are part of my world some times.

Sleep is a naturally recurring state of relatively suspended sensory and motor activity, characterized by total or partial unconsciousness and the inactivity of nearly all voluntary muscles. It is distinguished from quiet wakefulness by a decreased ability to react to stimuli, and it is more easily reversible than hibernation or coma.

We know that someone is asleep by observing these small characteristics that are common to a sleeping person. The person's eyes are closed. The person doesn't hear anything unless it is a loud noise. The person breathes in a slow, rhythmic pattern. The person's muscles are completely relaxed. If sitting up, the person may fall out of his or her chair as sleep deepens. During sleep, the person occasionally rolls over or rearranges his or her body. This happens approximately once or twice an hour. This may be the body's way of making sure that no part of the body or skin has its circulation cut off for too long a period of time.

Sleep architecture follows a pattern of alternating REM (rapid eye movement) and NREM (non-rapid eye movement) sleep throughout a typical night in a cycle that repeats itself about every 90 minutes.

What role does each state and stage of sleep play?

NREM (75% of night): As we begin to fall asleep, we enter NREM sleep, which is composed of stages 1-4

Stage 1
  • Between being awake and falling asleep
  • Light sleep
Stage 2
  • Onset of sleep
  • Becoming disengaged from surroundings
  • Breathing and heart rate are regular
  • Body temperature drops (so sleeping in a cool room is helpful)
Stages 3 and 4
  • Deepest and most restorative sleep
  • Blood pressure drops
  • Breathing becomes slower
  • Muscles are relaxed
  • Blood supply to muscles increases
  • Tissue growth and repair occurs
  • Energy is restored
  • Hormones are released, such as: Growth hormone, essential for growth and development, including muscle development
REM (25% of night): First occurs about 90 minutes after falling asleep and recurs about every 90 minutes, getting longer later in the night
  • Provides energy to brain and body
  • Supports daytime performance
  • Brain is active and dreams occur
  • Eyes dart back and forth
  • Body becomes immobile and relaxed, as muscles are turned off
In addition, levels of the hormone cortisol dip at bed time and increase over the night to promote alertness in morning.

Sleep helps us thrive by contributing to a healthy immune system, and can also balance our appetites by helping to regulate levels of the hormones ghrelin and leptin, which play a role in our feelings of hunger and fullness. So when we’re sleep deprived, we may feel the need to eat more, which can lead to weight gain.

I know that I have discussed this before about how much we need and the reality is there is no magic number. Your body should be able to regulate that and when it cannot that is when you may need some sleep assistance in the form of diagnosis of something like apnea, medical reviews for abnormalities, mental assistance in learning to deal with the anxiety and stress of an over industrialized era where the constant pressure to succeed and provide are forced upon you daily and avoidance of the sleep medicines ... they suppress so much that they are themselves equal to or worse than sleep deprivation itself.

But how does insomnia fit into this?

Insomnia, which is Latin for "no sleep," is the inability to fall asleep or remain asleep. Insomnia is also used to describe the condition of waking up not feeling restored or refreshed. According to Dr. Mark Mahowald, Professor of Neurology at the University of Minnesota Medical School and Director of the Minnesota Regional Sleep Disorders Center at Hennepin County Medical Center, insomnia refers to the inability to get the amount of sleep you as an individual need to wake up feeling rested.

Insomnia is the most common sleep complaint among Americans. It can be either acute, lasting one to several nights, or chronic, even lasting months to years. When insomnia persists for longer than a month, it is considered chronic. According to the National Center for Sleep Disorders Research at the National Institutes of Health, about 30-40% of adults say they have some symptoms of insomnia within a given year, and about 10-15 percent of adults say they have chronic insomnia. Sleep specialist Dr. William Dement, Director of the Sleep Disorders Clinic and Laboratory at the Stanford University School of Medicine, explains that people who have trouble sleeping every night without exception for months or years are fairly rare. More often, people experience chronic-intermittent insomnia, which means difficulty sleeping for a few nights, followed by a few nights of adequate sleep before the problem returns.

Last night I had insomnia. I know why though ... my sleep patterns are not there with the new working schedule and that will not change any time soon so I have to think clearly and come up with at biorhythm of sleep/awake cycle that my body will accept. But also last night was the culmination of many hours of data collection and analysis before work as I was advised I was going to be interacting with some VIPs from a company that is bidding for one of our contracts. The data I pulled yesterday and correlated, analyzed and layered into tiers of discussion was what I was pondering lat night and early this morning.

Why? I like a discussion which I will lead to be based on fact and not subjective. Thus I kept looking for flaws in my correlation and analysis. I do this because over the years of communicating and subjecting myself to analysis or tests I have learned that after a night of sleep, before the aforementioned events happen, I accept where I am and will no longer rearrange or cram into knowledge that is not already learned. I just cut it off. Sleep is a reset button and once awake I am simply who I am knowing what I know and that is all I can be.

In knowing this about me and the fact that today I am not contemplating anything about this afternoons meeting or presentation, yet understanding how important it is in my subconscious, my brain did not want that reset sleep button to be pressed until the last moment. Thus my own practices led to my case of insomnia. I find that very humorous and disturbing at the same time but I am who I am.

So are you bored yet ... maybe you fell asleep. If so good sleeping!


1 comment:

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"The secret of health for both mind and body is not to mourn for the past, worry about the future, or anticipate troubles but to live in the present moment wisely and earnestly." – Buddha