In recent years, a lot of progress has been made into the field of sleep research. However, these discoveries are still far from being complete. Considering that an individual spends about one-third of their life sleeping, there is much more that still needs to be discovered concerning this topic.
Sleep is basically a state of physical inactivity and mental rest in which conscious awareness, thoughts, and voluntary movements do not occur. During sleep, irregular and unpredictable dreaming also takes place. Sleep is a very active and coordinated process in which the brain busily turns off or moderates wakeful functions while actively turning on sleep mechanisms. There are two stages that sleep is usually divided into. The first stage is the non-rapid eye movement, or NREM stage. The second stage is the rapid eye movement, or REM stage. NREM is the stage of sleep that occurs when one first starts their sleep cycle and it is said to make up 75% of the sleep cycle. One of the distinguishing features of NREM sleep is its lack of dreaming. During the last two stages of the four stage NREM sleep, the deepest and most restorative sleep occurs, followed by various important biological processes. Meanwhile, the REM stage of sleep first occurs approximately 90 minutes after falling sleep and increases over the later part of the night, while occupying only 25% of the sleep cycle. The REM sleep is the stage of sleep that is characterized mainly by the appearance of dreams. This stage serves several important functions, such as its necessity for providing energy to brain and body. (“Sleep”; “Let Sleep Work for You”).
There are several reasons for why people need to sleep. Some the functions of sleep include:
• recovery at the cellular, network, and endocrine system levels
restoring of glycogen
• energy conservation
• memory consolidation
• a role in learning
• synaptic plasticity
As sleep plays many important roles in the proper functioning of the body, sleep deprivation can negatively affect humans. Some of the effects of sleep deprivation in humans include:
• Cognition becomes impaired
• Rapid mood changes
• Neuroendocrine changes
• Microsleeps (short periods of sleep of about a few seconds to a minute when one loses awareness of their surroundings; nodding of)
• temporary loss of consciousness (accompanied by microsleep)
• alleviated depression
*fortunately, these symptoms can be easily reversed with sleep
• eventual death (sleep deprivation of at least more than 10 days)
Recent and Significant Discoveries
There are countless theories as to why sleep is such an important part of people’s wellbeing. Out of these many theories one that has relatively new information in support of it is the theory that explains the connection between sleep and memory retention. In order to provide proof for the theory, a study was done to show the correlation. This study was conducted by Marcello Massimini of the...