Learning Your Sleep Patterns
Sleep is a natural, recurring condition of the body and brain, characterized by reduced awareness, decreased tactile activity, decreased motor activity and total suppression of almost all voluntary muscles through rapid eye movement sleep (REMS), and decreased interaction with external environment during REM sleep. During light sleep or non-restorative sleep, most of the body’s muscles are in a state of relaxation. But during sleep the brain is greatly increased in activity. The result is that the conscious brain is very active during REM sleep, which is also the stage of sleep in which dream activity increases. However, it is not clear what the relationship between sleep and dreams is. In most cases, nocturnal dreams occur as a result of sleep paralysis, where, usually, dreams occur while the person is fast asleep but cannot rouse themselves during sleep.
The four stages of sleep can be divided into four periods of light sleep, each of which lasts for about five hours. From the first to the fourth stage, the sleeper is in a light phase; during this time the body temperature remains elevated and the heart rate and breathing remain regular. The brain activity remains high during this time, as well. The fourth stage of non-rapid eye movement sleep (NREM) lasts about half an hour, and the person is in a deep phase.
Rapid eye movement sleep (REMS) is the stage where the body slowly recovers from the deep sleep of the previous night. During this stage, the body tends to wake itself up, but with limited ability. Muscle activity slows down, and the mental status tends to become confused. The following morning, most people will find themselves in a partially awake state, although they may still be mildly alert.
Dream sleep is the state in which the dreaming mind is awake. This is the most exciting stage, because dreams are visions that you have experienced. They are full of excitement and adventure, and this high level of brain activity leaves the person almost euphoric. The dreamer will be able to recall the dream, even when he wakes up in the morning.
Different patterns of sleep can be triggered by different stressors. There are both biological and behavioral reasons for these stress-related sleep patterns. In general, there are two types of sleep patterns, rapid REM (or dream) sleep and non-REM (or non-dream) sleep. During rapid REM sleep, the muscles of the body are almost completely inactive. During non-REM sleep, the body still contains enough muscle activity to trigger relaxation.
Dream patterns are learned by watching what happens while you are awake, but they are not always true. Some people have vivid dreams during REM sleep, but they are not necessarily true. True dreams are usually only dreams, but some people may have near real-life experiences. If someone is having a bad dream, while he or she might be awake, it is possible that this person will act as if the dream is real, waking up crying or with an alarm call because of the dream. This may be an indication that someone else may have had a similar experience while awake.