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What is sleep?

What is sleep?

We spend fully‭ one-third ‬of our lives asleep and it’s a vital part of every person’s life,‭ ‬but it’s an activity that most people know very little about— and we oftentimes even take this important need for granted. If you’ve ever been out of your usual sleeping schedule or have suffered from a lack of sleep,‭ ‬you know how critical a good night’s sleep is.‭ ‬In order to improve the quality of your sleep it’s important to understand what happens while we rest.

So, what exactly is sleep? Sleep as defined by dictionary.com is “to take the rest afforded by a suspension of voluntary bodily functions and the natural suspension, complete or partial, of consciousness; cease being awake.”1 We do know sleep is so vital to our survival that it’s a matter of life and death. Laboratory rats that were deprived of sleep only lived two to three weeks.1 A basic sleep tip, therefore, would simply be: don’t underestimate the importance of a good night’s sleep.

The National Institute of Health acknowledges that even though we don’t know the exact reason we sleep, it is something our bodies and mind must have. You might think that while we sleep so does our body and mind, yet even though we aren’t aware of what’s going on while we sleep, our bodies and minds remain busy.2

Sleep is regulated by a pair of systems in our body: the sleep-wake process and our circadian/internal rhythmic biological clock. These systems work in tandem both to make us feel tired, [preparing our bodies to sleep], and to help us feel awake during the day— acting as a mechanism to drive our activity and rest. Changes in our daily routines, as well as any kind of stress [in addition to myriad other factors], can alter these sensitive systems and cause people to feel tired in the morning as well as unable to sleep at night. An important sleep tip to remember is that even something so small as missing an hour of sleep for a couple days can throw our internal systems entirely off-balance.

There are two types of sleep: non-rapid eye movement [NREM] and rapid eye movement‭ [‬REM].‭ ‬As we rest,‭ ‬we cycle between NREM and REM around every hour and a half.‭ ‬It’s during REM sleep that dreaming, a vital part of sleep, occurs most often. Though we have barely begun‭  ‬to‭ ‬understand their importance and the reasons for them, they are surrounded by folklore— such as the idea that eating spicy foods just before bed will give you strange dreams. ‭ In fact, a‬ great tip to help you sleep better is to avoid eating or drinking anything at all for at least‭ ‬2-3‭ ‬hours before going to bed‭ so that you‬ fall asleep faster.3

If you feel tired throughout the day, if you can’t fall asleep at night, or if you have some other problem affecting your sleep, “rest assured” that you’re not alone: one out of nearly every four people in the United States suffers from some form of  sleep disorder.3 Sleep problems can be caused by just one or a cavalcade of events and can occur at any age. The most common sleep disorders are:

  • Insomnia‭ ‬– inability or difficulty getting to sleep and staying in a resting state.
  • Sleep Apnea‭ ‬– sufferers will snore loudly while sleeping,‭ ‬stop breathing for a short time,‭ ‬then gasp for breath.
  • Narcolepsy‭ ‬– prevents people from entering a regular sleep/wake cycle,‭ ‬causing them to fall asleep uncontrollably.
  • Restless Leg Syndrome‭ ‬– causes a person’s legs to have a sensation of tingling,‭ ‬only alleviated by moving,‭ ‬which interferes with sleep.4

Sleep is both an important and vital part of a healthy, happy life. We have put a great deal of research and development into our  memory foam mattress line, but getting quality rest is affected by many things in your life. The more you understand about sleep and what factors can effect it, the better your overall well-being may become.

Bibliography

  1. Sleep. (n.d.) On Dictionary.com— Retrieved May 11, 2009, from http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/sleep
  2. United States Department of Health & Human Services. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Your Guide To Healthy Sleep. Nov. 2005. Jan. 2012. <http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/public/sleep/healthy_sleep.pdf>.
  3. Sleep and Aging (Published March 16, 2005)— Retrieved May 11, 2009, from http://nihseniorhealth.gov/sleepandaging/aboutsleep/01.html
  4. Can’t Sleep? Science Is Seeking New Answers; CAM at the NIH Focus on Complementary and Alternative Medicine, Volume XVII, Number 3: Summer 2005—Retrieved Jan 10, 2012, from http://nccam.nih.gov/research/results/spotlight/090106.htm
35 Comments Post a comment
  1. i have known two people who suffer from sleep Apnea & they both have to wear oxygen masks at night to get their good sleep. i don’t seem to have any sleep disorders, but i always have to buy a new pillow once every 3 months or so to get the neck support i need.

    January 24, 2012
  2. I just wish i could enjoy sleep,i have severe sleep apnea ill go to bed at 3am and awake at 6am that goes on for weeks until my body shuts down and i can actually sleep.It causes alot of problems like memory loss no ambition and just plain staring,i have tried every bed out there and cant find the right pillow i would love to try your pillow before i buy because i have 12 pillows in my closet cant find the 1 i need.

    January 24, 2012
  3. Insomnia is my problem, have suffered with it for the last 7 years!

    January 24, 2012
  4. “one out of nearly every four people in the United States suffers from some form of sleep disorder” – WOw had no idea it was that many – like the idea of not eating 2 to 3 hrs before but not sure if I can go that long without drinking

    January 24, 2012
  5. wow I did not know the stats were that high for sleep issues. I find that if my mind gets caught on a thought right before bed I have the most problems. I’m also snore really loud :D

    January 24, 2012
  6. My husband has sleep issues. He works a 3rd shift and it’s very hard for him to get restful sleep when he goes to sleep during the day. Outside noises keep him awake sometimes but, mostly it’s the length of good sleep time that stresses him.

    January 24, 2012
  7. I am a restless sleeper…thinks it’s hot flashes and a large dog combined…reading about NREM and REm brought me back to my college Psychology classes. Just would like a nice restless solid night of sleep..A girl can dream!

    January 24, 2012
  8. A cool room and a warm blanket is absolute heaven. I love to sleep.

    January 24, 2012
  9. I have no clue what sleep is 3 kids and sleep apnea – I need a new mask desperatley but have not been able to get one yet. I dont know how i function on a day to day basis

    January 24, 2012
  10. I’ve always thought that getting enough sleep is one of the most important factors in overall health. That definitely includes a good pillow! When I travel I take mine with me – a bad night’s sleep with a bad pillow can ruin your day.

    January 24, 2012
  11. As I’ve gotten older it’s been harder to stay asleep for more than 5-6 hours. I find myself getting up in the middle of the night, reading a bit then try to go back to sleep.

    January 24, 2012
  12. Insomnia is my problem too. I toss and turn.

    @tnrina

    tnrinaatgmaildotcom

    January 24, 2012
  13. I would give anything to sleep through the night, straight through. When I was younger, it was a breeze and felt heavenly. I think sleep is a rejuvenation and healing of the body! Gosh, do I need that!!

    January 24, 2012
  14. I dont know wht sleep is,I havnt seen it since. not sure when. are you sure it not just a fairy tale?

    January 24, 2012
  15. Great article on sleep. I have referred another family member here to read it. So much good advice on a very debated topic. Thanks!

    January 24, 2012
  16. I have difficulty getting to sleep…takes hours sometimes..BUT when i do get to sleep..not even hurricane can wake me…great article i will definitely share with my friends

    January 24, 2012
  17. I know I can’t function with less than 7 hours of it a night :) I love my sleep and need it.

    January 24, 2012
  18. I can sleep anytime anywhere. Of course, that is relative to having completed all my responsibilities for the time being…

    January 24, 2012
  19. My mother has to sleep with an oxygen mask or sleep sitting up b/c of her obesity problem and not getting enough oxygen. I feel so sorry for her.

    January 24, 2012
  20. It doesn’t seem to matter what time I go to bed I still wake up without an alarm clock between 5:00am and 6:00am. Sometimes I wake up as early as 4:00 am. I also suffer from bad dreams, terrifying dreams and have been known to frequently wake up screaming. Scary right?! I would love to have 7 -8 hours of sleep, however I’m not sure how I can make that happen without medication! :-(

    January 24, 2012
  21. my mother is narcoleptic, and I can vouch for the fact that it really disrupts sleep patterns.

    January 24, 2012
  22. Sleep to me is rejuvenation, relaxation and peace!

    January 24, 2012
  23. Getting a good night’s sleep is also important in losing and/or maintaining your weight. I just heard the other day that if you can increase your sleep from 7 to 8 hours a night, it can help you lose weight. I don’t know many people who get that many hours, for so many reasons! That could be a small part of the reason why our country has an obesity problem. People just aren’t getting enough sleep (me included)!

    January 24, 2012
  24. Like the article says, I do try to avoid eating or drinking a few hours before bed. However, I don’t do it to fall asleep faster. If I have too much to drink just before bed, i usually have to get up in the early morning to use the bathroom and then I have a really hard time falling back asleep at that point. If I don’t have anything to eat or drink a few hours before I go to bed I’m able to sleep through the night and wake up feeling more refreshed.

    January 24, 2012
  25. My cats don’t make it easy for me to get a good nights sleep. For some reason they tend to go crazy around three am and race around the house especially enjoying running over me!

    January 24, 2012
  26. I used to pull all-nighters in college all the time, however now if I miss just a couple hours of sleep just one night I’m a mess. So I agree:”don’t underestimate the importance of a good night’s sleep.” This is becoming more true the older I get unfortunately.

    January 24, 2012
  27. My husband has sleep apnea and sleeps with a c-pap machine. It took months for him to be able to sleep all night with it. Fortunately, I’m a deep sleeper and his tossing and turning didn’t affect me much

    January 24, 2012
  28. I don’t have trouble falling asleep but I’m a light sleeper so any semi-loud noises will wake me up. It’s particularly bad when I travel and am not used to the surrounding noises which wake me up constantly and make it harder to fall back asleep.

    January 24, 2012
  29. My husband has sleep apnea, and I have arthritis. These two things combined make for a lot of sleepless nights :(

    January 24, 2012
  30. As any parent knows, if you have a child with sleeping problems it means you too will most likely have sleeping problems! If I had the chance to try one of these pillows and it helped, I’d buy one for each member of my family.

    January 24, 2012
  31. I’m amazed by the fact that one in four suffers from sleep problems! My only issue is waking up early and not being able to go back to sleep. I’m sure that I need more sleep.

    January 24, 2012
  32. I am amazed at how many people I know have sleeping problems & ignore them. They complain but do not do anything. They just need information & to address the problems before they get worse.

    January 24, 2012
  33. I wish I could fall asleep easily! It takes me at least 15 minutes to fall asleep. I’ve been a night owl all my life. I wish I could fall asleep earlier, but I’ve been a night owl all my life. I used to be able to push through all-nighters, but I simply can’t do that anymore. Sleep is so important. Thank goodness for the weekends~! The one time I can catch up on my beauty sleep.

    January 25, 2012
  34. I have always had trouble sleeping. I’m just as tired when I wake up as I was before I went to sleep :(

    January 29, 2012

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  1. The Ten Most Common Sleep Myths | Sleep Academy

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