The Function of Sleep
- Non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep takes up about 75% of the average dreamer's night. The earliest phase of NREM sleep begins with general relaxation of muscles. This relaxed state eventually culminates in the deepest sleep level when it appears that protein synthesis, growth hormones, immune function, and the mind are given a boost. Delta waves—the slowest and largest waves—signal the onset of this most rejuvenating sleep level.
- Rapid eye movement (REM) sleep takes up about 25% of an average sleeper's night. Dreams that occur during REM sleep might provide, in a sense, a sorting through of free-floating information. REM sleep is thought to be a very important period for mental revitalization.
Risky Consequences From Sleeplessness
- Have behavioral problems (especially in children)
- Drink more alcohol and use more sedatives than they usually do
- Experience a decreased enjoyment in life
Who Is Most Affected?
Late Shift Workers
Tips for Better Sleep
- Avoid caffeine, nicotine, alcohol, and exercise at least four hours before bedtime. Caffeine and nicotine are stimulants, and alcohol, though a depressant that makes falling asleep easier initially, interferes with deep sleep later on during the night. Exercise also acts as a stimulant, but a workout earlier in the day can improve nighttime rest.
- Leave worrying outside the bed. If you stay awake worrying about things you have to tackle the next day, write out a list of "to-dos" to take the pressure off. Then put the list aside to deal with the next day.
- Keep other activities out of the bedroom. Don't confuse your bedroom with your family room. Keep your television viewing and internet surfing out of your sleeping quarters. You need to associate your bedroom with sleep and not activities that will keep your mind engaged.
- Don't try to "force" yourself to sleep. You'll just lie awake staring at the clock. After 20 minutes of wakefulness, go to another room to read or perform some other quiet activity. Return to your bedroom only when you've become tired enough to sleep.
- Temperature counts. Keep your bedroom set up for a restful night's sleep with a comfortable mattress and proper temperature setting. A too-hot or too-cold room can keep you awake.
- Reduce noise levels. Apartment-dwellers with noisy neighbors or those on heavily trafficked streets can block out noise with a fan or a white noise machine.
- Avoid stimulation before sleeping. Try not to engage in anything that will give you a second wind just before bed, such as viewing an action-packed movie or sitting in a brightly lit room. Instead, try listening to soothing music or reading.
- Slow down. Don't hurriedly get ready for bed at the last minute. Brush your teeth and wash yourself a while in advance. Try to stick with an early-to-bed, early-to-rise pattern. That way, you won't go to bed too late during the work week and need an alarm clock each morning to wake you out of a sound sleep.
American Academy of Sleep Medicine http://www.aasmnet.org/
National Sleep Foundation http://www.sleepfoundation.org/
Better Sleep Council Canada http://www.bettersleep.ca/
Canadian Sleep Society http://www.css.to/
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What happens when you sleep? National Sleep Foundation website. Available at: http://www.sleepfoundation.org/article/how-sleep-works/what-happens-when-you-sleep. Accessed April 12, 2012.
- Reviewer: Peter J. Lucas, MD
- Review Date: 05/2012 -
- Update Date: 05/07/2012 -