Everybody sleeps at night. Everybody dreams. And some people recall their dreams. But what is actually happening during dreamtime? And how does this mysterious phenomena impact our daily lives? To get a grasp on the subject, it's important to understand the science of sleep.
During a typical night's rest, people go through four to five 90-minute sleep cycles, and each cycle consists of four individual stages of sleep. An easy way to ensure waking up refreshed is to try to wake up at the end of a cycle, not in the middle. For example, getting 6, 7.5, or 9 hours of sleep would each be at the end of a cycle.
The body begins to relax, drowsiness develops, and sleep is easily disrupted, causing you to awaken. Muscles begin to relax, and brain wave activity begins to differ from that of a waking state.
The body and mind slow down even more, preparing for a deeper sleep.
This is the realm of deep sleep, when your body shuts down and the restoration process takes place. Delta and slow-oscillation waves begin to delete and encode memory.
This is the start of REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. Brain activity returns to near-wakefulness levels, and vivid dreaming occurs. Despite increased breathing and heart rate, most muscles are paralyzed to prevent the legs and arms from flailing in response to awareness and the dream experience. The majority of REM sleep takes place during the second half of the night.
It is a common experience that a problem difficult at night is resolved in the morning after the committee of sleep has worked on it.
Sleep and regular sleep-wake cycles are critical in regulating the development of various hormones and getting enough deep sleep is critical for maximizing strength training gains and regenerating cells to repair tissue and bone, as well as stimulating blood flow to muscles for recovery. In fact, deep sleep is responsible for the production of 95 percent of growth hormone.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, it is recommended that teenagers get 8–10 hours of sleep per night, 7–9 hours for adults (18–64), and 7–8 hours for older adults (65+).
Studies show that sleeping less than 6 hours a night increases mortality and health outcomes such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, coronary heart disease, and obesity.
On the other hand, sleep duration of over 9 hours has been correlated with more significant mortality and increased mortality, diabetes mellitus, cardiovascular disease, stroke, coronary heart disease, and obesity
Overall, consensus assessments of over a thousand scientific articles have revealed that the sweet spot for most people is ideally between 7 and 7.5 hours.
Education is the kindling of a flame, not the filling of a vessel.
As we go about our day, we constantly experience and adapt to the world around us, learning and growing. Our experiences continually shape our worldview, and our brains are continuously changing as a result.
Research suggests that sleep helps learning and memory in two distinct ways. First, a sleep-deprived person cannot focus attention optimally and therefore cannot learn efficiently. Second, sleep itself has a role in the consolidation of memory, which is essential for learning new information.
New events become electrical impulses that spread through the hippocampus's neural networks, an area of the brain responsible for the formation of new memories. These impulses, or new memories, change synaptic connections, making some more potent and others weaker.
For something to become a memory, three functions must occur:
The process of learning or experiencing something new.
The process by which a memory becomes stable in the brain.
The ability to retrieve information from memory in the future.
With everything comes balance, and neuroplasticity is no exception. Sleep provides the brain with the time it needs to integrate and sort things out.
It is unsustainable for neurons to fire continuously throughout the day without being down-regulated. When we sleep, important memories are consolidated into existing networks and moved to the cortex for longer-term storage, where they can be found when we need them.
Neurons oscillate between a depolarized on-state when they fire and a hyperpolarized off-state when they are silent during deep non-REM sleep. A recent study found that opposing brain waves known as delta and slow-oscillation serve two distinct functions during this down-regulation. Delta waves inhibit memory formation, while slow-oscillation waves do the encoding.
A recent study found that language learning can be enhanced during slow-oscillation wave periods. The study showed that at the peak of these slow-oscillation waves, word associations are registered and encoded. On the other hand, research has shown that delta waves proliferate in brains with amyloid plaque buildup, a hallmark of Alzheimer's disease.
When awake, learning occurs. When asleep, sorting and processing occur based on relevance and future expectations of usefulness so that essential memories are easier to retrieve for future use.
The brain has a more difficult time absorbing and recalling new information when it lacks adequate sleep. According to research, better sleep quality, duration, and consistency are all linked to higher academic performance.
The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.
Dreams are most common during REM sleep, but they can occur at any stage of sleep. Non-REM and REM sleep dreams, on the other hand, appear to follow different patterns.
REM dreams are more imaginative, immersive, and nonsensical, enhancing the integration of unassociated information for creative problem-solving.
This fluid interpretation is at the heart of a creative mind while dreaming; working without rules to create and imagine the unimaginable. In fact, many of the world's most significant inventions and discoveries were inspired by ideas and inspirations that came to them in their dreams.
In 1619, a young soldier stationed in Germany had three dreams involving spirits, including an evil spirit and the holy spirit. That soldier was Rene Descartes, and those dreams gave rise to dualism.
In 1845, Elias Howe invented the sewing machine. He had been thinking about making a device with a needle that would go through cloth, and he had a dream that provided some newfound inspiration. In his dream, Elias was surrounded by cannibals who were about to be cooked and eaten. While observing them dance around a fire with spears moving up and down, he noticed a hole at the tops. When he awoke, he realized that a hole in the needle close to the point, rather than the other end, provided the solution he was looking for, making the mechanical sewing machine a technological possibility.
In 1953, a young molecular biologist had a dream involving a spiral. That spiral served as an inspiration for the discovery of DNA's double-helix structure. Imagination and creativity are inextricably linked, and human progress is directly proportional to both.
Dr. James Watson saw a spiral staircase leading to the double helix spiral structure of our DNA.
Dimitry Mendeleev, a chemist, saw a table where all the elements fell into place as required after ten years of research.
Niels Bohr had a vision of the planets circling the sun on pieces of string. When he awoke from his dream, he was able to see the movement of electrons.
Albert Einstein had a dream that he was walking through a farm and came across a herd of cows huddled up against an electric fence. When the farmer suddenly turned on the electric fence, he saw the cows all jump back at the same time – but the farmer saw them jump one by one in a Mexican wave.
German soldier René Descartes had a series of three dreams that spurred him to question the nature of reality. He quit the army the next year to study mathematics and philosophy and created Analytical Geometry.
Elias Howe found himself surrounded by cannibals about to be cooked and eaten. While observing them dance around a fire with spears moving up and down, he noticed holes on the top of the spears. Upon awakening, he realized that having a hole in the needle close to the point, rather than the other end, was the solution he needed for the mechanical sewing machine.
Go to sleep and wake up around the same time and try to get sunlight before 9 am.
Daily exercise is paramount to sound sleep. Just try to avoid it close to bedtime.
You can download Snorelab for free on the app store to listen to yourself breathe at night. Your brain prefers nasally filtered air to mouth air and mouth taping is a simple solution. Somnfix strips are a popular solution.
If you're going to be looking at screens before bed, try blue-light blocking glasses. Comfortable sleep masks and earplugs are easy to find.
The body prefers temperatures between 60 and 68 degrees F.
Drink half your body weight in ounces.