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Brain Awareness Week: The Importance of Sleep

By March 18, 2015Archives

It wasn’t until recently that scientists and researchers determined that sleep is not as much of a passive activity as we imagine. In our minds, sleep is something we do to shutdown and reboot for the next day. However, our minds never shut off and are quite active as we sleep! There are plenty of important processes that occur while we close our eyes, and without them our brains would not be able to properly rejuvenate.

In honor of Brain Awareness Week, here are a few important facts about sleep!

5 Stages
Sleep is actually a complicated process. Scientists have determined that there are 5 stages of sleeping. They include:

  • Stage 1 – This is a light sleep where you can easily be awaken and drift in and out of sleep.
  • Stage 2 – In this stage your eye movements stop.
  • Stage 3 – In stage 3 your brain produces different waves signaling deeper sleep.
  • Stage 4 – Stage 4 is referred to as deep sleep and produces more of the same waves as stage 3
  • R.E.M. – The final stage is known as Rapid Eye Movement. Your eyes move spastically, your heart rate and blood pressure increase, and most dreams occur in this stage.

Each separate stage has its own purpose and is ordered from lightest sleep to deepest sleep. Without spending the proper amount of time in each stage certain negative factors can occur. For instance, certain stages pertain to consolidating memories. If an individual doesn’t spend enough time in those specific stages, they’ll have a hard time remembering all the things that they learned the previous day.

Smoking and Sleeping
Tobacco products have a very negative effect on sleeping. As we mentioned previously, in order to feel fully refreshed after a full night’s sleep, we must enter each stage of sleep. Smokers have a hard time achieving each stage of sleep. Due to nicotine withdrawal, those who smoke cigarettes or any other type of tobacco, might only be able to sleep up to three or four hours at a time. Their bodies stir due to the lack of nicotine in their system. As a result, they wake easily. Three or four hours is not enough time to spend in each sleep stage. That’s why it’s best to kick the habit, and if you don’t smoke; don’t start.

How Much Do We Need?
What’s the proper amount of sleep to get? Well, it depends on age. The recommended amount of hours for adults is seven to eight hours. Unfortunately, for older adults, it’s harder to get the recommended amount of sleep. Over half of the population that is 65 and older have some sort of sleeping problem. It could be a normal part of aging or something that is affected through medication or other treatments.

The best way to counter this sleeping problem in aging adults is to keep to a strict schedule. If the problem continues to exist, consider consulting an expert who will provide additional helpful recommendations. As the mind becomes used to its regular routine, sleep becomes easier. Each stage is reached and your loved one will wake up feeling refreshed and fully charged for the day to come!

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