Table of contents
Sleep and Dreams - Neurology
- Human Neurology
The Falling Asleep Process
During the day when we are a awake, our body and brain are working tirelessly to operate our body, and as they do so they slowly degrade at a cellular level. A person will get progressively tired from this bodily breakdown, because sleep gives us a chance to build and replace the cells and resolve our end of day homeostatic imbalances.
If you have not slept for a while, the decrease in the efficiency and effectiveness of the body begins to tell, and you will begin to feel sleepy as less energy is available to you. The longer we stay up the more likely we will fall asleep.
If certain conditions prevail, like a state of inactivity or relaxing in a warm dry place, there is a higher chance of us falling asleep due to the preferable conditions for us to do so.
When we fall asleep, our metabolic rate slows down, as does almost every other function across the board, we effectively go into hibernation mode. The amount of adrenaline in our body promoting awareness decreases and somatotrophin, controlling the repair of tissue is more abundant. This is effectively the healing process of sleep that revitalises us.
The synaptic nerve connections containing recollections about the last day are also strengthened, hence when you wake up the more you realised you did yesterday. This localised area of memory is what many of our dreams consist of, our past recollections of the day. You may have dreamt something twice, and on the second time it was only because you thought of that first dream the day before you dreamt the second. When looking at it like this, it confirms the reason why you have the same dream, your conscious thought about it accesses that part of the brain thus 'remembers' it at night.
Dreams Telling the Future?
Some people believe that dreams tell the future. But, when 6 billion people dream every night, there is bound to be a coincidence when there are trillions of dreams every year. Those people who have dreamed of winning the lottery are one of many.
I, personally don't believe they tell the future, though could be a sign of intelligence, the brain interpreting possibilities in the future from the knowledge of past events. This would be perfectly viable, as it would be a case of the brain 'adapting' to its future environment, and preparing you for the possible future.
REM stands for rapid eye movement and is the points in time during sleep where dreams occur. They occur after periods of deep sleep.
As suggested, rapid eye movement occurs in REM, while the body is under a state of paralysis.
In effect, our brain takes us on a virtual reality of our thoughts while it steadily repairs itself for the next day. The most vivid and deepest dreams will occur in the periods between REM while drowsy, almost conscious dreams occur in the REM stages.
Our Environment Outside Sleep
Have you ever had a dream where someone next door is playing music, and the music is conveniently woven into your dream? This is your body trying to lessen the chances of you awakening while it is repairing itself.
However, sleep deprived people go into much deeper sleep, and may not detect such noises. The overriding point here is, that sleep is essential to the body, and that there are compensations made to our usual behaviour (like paralysis) that enables our body to do what is required for itself.
The older we get, the less sleep we require. Teenagers buck the trends in needing the most sleep of us all, due to the growth spurt occurring at puberty that involves a larger turnover of materials and energy.
- Newborn babies can sleep up to 60% of the day
- Adults require around 7 hours minimum
- With aging, the amount required is less due to the gradual degeneration of parts of the body that are not getting repaired.
Certain drugs are available to induce sleeping, but most are addictive and require controlled and responsible use. The next page looks at the works of famous past neurologists like Carl Gustav Jung and Sigmund Freud, who both actively pursued the way in which we dream as a career in neurology.
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