According to Webster’s dictionary the definition for sleep is a natural periodic state of rest for the mind and body, in which the eyes usually close and consciousness is completely or partially lost, so that there is a decrease in bodily movement and responsiveness to external stimuli. During sleep the brain in humans and other mammals undergoes a characteristic cycle of brain-wave activity that includes intervals of dreaming.
I don’t know about you but that sounds really nice to me. Unfortunately it doesn’t sound like my personal definition of sleep. Millions of Americans suffer from sleep disorders every day. Some more severe than others but any sort of sleep issue can be extremely detrimental to our health. There is no “warning label” about getting to much or not getting enough sleep anywhere like there is for alcohol and tobacco products so without anyone to speak up about it our bodies are left to determine what we need in order to get by. Of course we have heard that the average person need about 8 hours of sleep. The word “average” is what gets us in trouble! Not very many of us are “average”. There are different needs to just about everyone and in order to get what is really truly needed we must self analyze and make do.
There are supposedly five stages of sleep. The first stage is called Non Rapid Eye Movement sleep. it’s the stage when we first lay down and we are half asleep but we are able to wake up with very little effort. Our eye muscles at this point are only partially relaxed. Within about ten to fifteen minutes of our sleep we enter stage two. It is referred to as “True Sleep” and is the state that we remain in for the majority of the night (or at least where we should be). Believe it or not, by the time our body has entered the third stage of sleep called deep sleep, we are actually preparing to wake up and face the next day. Rapid Eye Movement Sleep (REM sleep) is when the brain is at its most active and when we go off into dream land. This stage usually begins about and hour to an hour and a half after we first fall to sleep. We have around three to five REM episodes a night. It’s hard to believe but we go through these stages about five times a night…IF we are sleeping correctly.
There are so many different types of sleep disorders that it would be impossible for me to name them all in one article but here is a start. First and foremost, the most popular is called Sleep Apnea. It is is a disorder in which your breathing is affected during your sleep. Usually it is accompanied by loud snoring and it consist of brief periods throughout the night in which breathing stops. People with sleep apnea do not get enough oxygen during sleep and often have problems with headaches. Sleep apnea can be caused by two things. One is an obstruction in the throat that is usually only temporary due to a cold or some sort of virus. The other type is a bit more serious and is caused due to a lack of communication from the brain to the lungs or “breath”.
Next most commonly known is Narcolepsy. Often times people find this to be funny but in reality it is very serious and can result in horrible changes in ones life. No matter how much a Narcoleptic sleeps they continue to feel the need to sleep. They may fall asleep while at work, in the middle of a conversation or even while driving! Usually the “episodes” will last anywhere from thirty seconds to thirty minutes. Needless to say given the wrong situation, narcolepsy can be fatal.
Those are the two main sleep disorders that effect many of us and on occasion we may even go without knowing we have the disorder.
Part two will be coming soon. If you suspect any type of sleep disorder contact your doctor immediately. This article is only a written summary of facts that I have collected. It is not meant to diagnose you!