Ever Wondered: What is Sleep...?


Sleep is a Mystery

Despite the long history of the importance of sleep, medical science is not in agreement as to why we sleep. Much of what we know about sleep comes from sleep studies where patients are ‘watched’ with monitors while they sleep.

The benefits of a good night’s sleep are well documented: more energy, faster metabolism, weight loss, improved concentration and better memory are just a few of the positives of getting the right amount of sleep. Without a good night’s rest, you don’t feel your best, and can’t make decisions with clarity.

That’s why at FRESH Med, the “S” stands for “Sleep” and is one of our five pillars of well-being!

Sleep is Two-Faced

There's Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep and non-REM (NREM) sleep. In NREM, our physiological processes slow down. It consists of four to five stages, which form the sleep cycle.

Sleep is Cyclical

REM sleep starts about 90 minutes after we fall asleep and is widely considered "active sleep." Brain cells are firing, breathing is rapid, our eyes move around. This is normally when we dream. This type of sleep replenishes our neurotransmitters and helps us convert short-term memories into long-term ones. If you wake up during REM sleep, you can feel super groggy and it can take you a while to adjust.

Every single night we alternate between NREM sleep and REM sleep phases; the full cycle takes about an hour and a half, repeating itself about four to six times each night. Allowing this cycle to flow naturally, without disruption, is the best way to ensure restful sleep.

Sleep is Groovy: It Has Circadian Rhythm

Our bodies were the original alarm clocks. As humans, we are designed to have about eight hours of sleep and 16 hours of activity each day. This is determined by our circadian rhythms, which control changes in body temperature, hormones (cortisol and melatonin), and other factors that determine how we feel at any given moment. Interestingly, light is one of the most important factors in setting the rhythm of our biological clock.

If you recognize a sleep problem, give us a call and make an appointment to talk to Dr. Graham.

Sadly, millions of people do not get enough sleep and many suffer from the consequences. Sleep is essential! Sleep is not a period of “rest” in the traditional sense of the lack of activity. Yes, our body, our muscles rest and repair, but our brain is active. We heal when we sleep.

The only reason we have to sleep is because we feel sleepy.
— William Dement, Sleep Researcher

Sleep is Brainy, and Polite Enough to Always Wave

For every situation in your life, your brain shifts into one dominant brainwave mode. There are four classified brainwave states.  Each of these waves appears and disappears in the brain, so they are not always present. During a normal nights sleep a sleeper passes from the theta waves of stage 1 and 2, to the delta waves of stage 3 and 4.

Delta waves are the slowest and highest amplitude brain waves. Delta sleep is our deepest sleep, the point when our brain waves are least like waking. Consequently, it is most difficult stage in which to wake sleepers, and when they are awakened they are usually sleepy and disoriented. Interestingly, delta sleep is when sleep walking and sleep talking is most likely to occur.

Since sleep is the foundation of good health, sleep deprivation is bad for your health! Lack of sleep (insomnia) is directly linked to diabetes, obesity, and heart disease, illnesses that are all on the rise and that we should all be doing our best to avoid. This might seem overwhelming—even a little scary—but don't worry, FRESH med is on your team! Sleep is one of the five FRESH pillars of wellbeing. Zzzzz….