Saturday, July 25, 2009

Rest Easy by Melissa Bright, BA

Recent studies show that sleep is more than just “shuteye.” And, with 40 million Americans suffering from chronic, long-term sleep disorders each year, the dangers and costs warrant a full examination of sleep and its contributions to health.

What Does Sleep Do?

Sleep and the Brain Sleep provides restoration to parts of the brain used while awake, allowing brain cells used during wakefulness to shut down and repair themselves. At the same time, sleep allows certain parts of the brain to become active.

In children and young adults, growth hormones are released during sleep. And, in general, cells in the body strengthen. The parts of the brain responsible for emotions, decision-making, and social interaction slow down during sleep, suggesting that these functions are highly dependent upon sleep.

A study involving nerve patterns showed that the patterns that occurred while one is awake are repeated during deep sleep, suggesting that sleep helps with memory formation and learning.

Sleep and Health

Sleep-related problems are related to a number of health problems due to sleep’s effect on hormones, heart rate, etc. The neurons that control sleep also closely interact with the immune system. Sleeping problems create a vicious cycle of confusion, frustration, and depression, which, in turn, causes more sleep problems.

Sleep Stages

Healthy sleep consists of five stages; scientists are still trying to decipher the benefits of each stage. The complete sleep cycle takes between 90 to 110 minutes to complete and repeats continuously all night.

Stage 1: Light Sleep
People are easily awakened during this stage; eyes move very slowly and muscle activity slows down.

Stage 2: Slow
The brain waves become slower, eye movement stops. We spend most of our total sleep time in this stage.

Stages 3 and 4: Deep Sleep
The brain waves become even slower than in stage 2. It becomes very difficult to wake someone during these stages. There is no eye movement or muscle activity.

REM: Dreaming Stage
When this stage begins, breathing becomes more rapid, irregular, and shallow. The eyes jerk rapidly in various directions, and the limb muscles become temporarily paralyzed. The heart rate and blood pressure increase. If awakened during REM sleep, people describe bizarre and illogical tales (dreams).

Circadian Rhythms

The need for sleep and a whole array of mental and physical changes coincide with the amount of daylight to which a person is exposed. As a result, the human body strongly responds to these circadian, ie daily, rhythms. Light enters through the eyes and influences the hormone production in the brain.

For this reason, people who work nights often feel extremely tired at work, which can lead to dangerous accidents; the Exxon Valdez oil spill, Three Mile Island, and the Chernobyl nuclear power plant accidents are three examples of the danger of being out of sync with the circadian rhythm. This rhythm also explains jet lag, or the fatigue resulting from traveling to a different time zone.

How Much?

In addition to sleeping at the right time, the amount of sleep one gets each night is also important. This time varies depending on many factors, such as age.

  • Infants: 16 hours per day
  • Teenagers: 9 hours per night
  • Most adults: 7–8 hours per night

Pregnancy, sleep deprivation, medications, and other factors can greatly influence the amount of sleep a person needs. Even though we may become accustomed to a sleep-depriving schedule, our judgment, reaction time, and other functions are still impaired. In short, we don’t adapt to getting less sleep than we need.

Common Sleep Disorders

As mentioned earlier, sleep disorders plague an overwhelming number of Americans. And, while almost everyone experiences a sleep disturbance occasionally, one should not be alarmed unless those disturbances effect daily functioning. Out of the 70 sleep disorders that doctors have discovered, the following are the most common.

  • Insomnia is characterized by the inability to fall asleep when trying. It results from stress, jet lag, diet, or from other factors. It typically affects women more than men.
  • Sleep apnea is characterized by pauses in breathing while asleep. Some causes are fat buildup and the loss of muscle tone, which can result in the windpipe collapsing. Patients with this disorder awaken frequently during the night, which causes them to not feel rested the next day.
  • Restless leg syndrome is a disorder that causes an unpleasant crawling, prickling, or tingling sensation. The only relief comes from moving one’s legs and feet. The disorder causes fragmented sleep. Drugs that affect the neurotransmitter dopamine often relieve symptoms.
  • Narcolepsy is a condition characterized by sleep attacks in which a person will suddenly fall asleep. It is a disorder of sleep regulation, usually hereditary, and occasionally linked to brain damage. Stimulants and antidepressants can help control the symptoms.

Signs of Sleep Disorders

Talk to your doctor if you:

  • Take more than 30 minutes to fall asleep each night;
  • Awaken periodically throughout the night, then have trouble falling back to sleep or awake too early in the morning;
  • Feel sleepy during day, take frequent naps, or fall asleep at inappropriate times;
  • Have a bed partner who says that you snore loudly, snort, gasp, make choking sounds, or stop breathing periodically;
  • Have creeping, tingling, or crawling feelings in the legs or arms;
  • Have a bed partner that notices your legs and arms jerking during sleep;
  • Have vivid, dreamlike experiences while falling asleep or dozing;
  • Have episodes of sudden muscle weakness when angry, fearful, or laughing; or
  • Feel as if you can’t move when you first wake up.

Tips for Good Sleep Hygiene

Hygiene is any practice that promotes good health. Sleep hygiene reflects an understanding of the body’s need for the right amount of sleep at the right time. It is important to get a full night’s sleep on a regular basis. To optimize your chances for a good night’s sleep, follow these rules.

  • Don’t go to bed unless you are sleepy.
  • If you are not asleep after 20 minutes, then get of bed.
  • Begin rituals that help you relax each night before bed.
  • Get up at the same time every morning.
  • Avoid taking naps if you can.
  • Keep a regular schedule.
  • Don’t read, write, eat, watch TV, talk on the phone, or play cards in bed.
  • Do not have any caffeine in the afternoon (note: soft drinks often contain caffeine, unless the label says “caffeine free.” Chocolate also contains caffeine.)
  • Do not drink alcohol within six hours of going to bed.
  • Do not have any nicotine before bed.
  • Do not go to bed hungry; however, don’t eat a big meal before bedtime either.
  • Avoid any tough exercise within six hours of your bedtime.
  • Avoid sleeping pills, or use them cautiously.
  • Try to get rid of or deal with things that make you worry.
  • Make your bedroom quiet, dark, and a little bit cool.

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Johor Trial [Paper 1] [Paper 2], Terengganu Trial [Paper 1] [Paper 2], Pahang Trial [Paper 1] [Paper 2] [Answers], Melaka Trial 2007 [Paper 1] [Paper 2], TIMES [Paper 1] [Paper 2] SPB [Paper 1] [Paper 2]


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Terengganu TOV [Paper 1] [Paper 2] Terengganu Mid Year [Paper 1] [Paper 2]
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