Rem Sleep: An Overview Of Affectibility

1837 words - 8 pages

Since the beginning of the long journey to what we now know about sleep and it’s stages, It has always been a mystery as to why we sleep and how it is that these vivid images can subdue our grip on reality and captivate our minds in a way that makes us believe we are in a distant world, and then in flash accompanied by a deep gasp for air we realize it was just a dream. While ancient philosophers such as Daldianus believed that these dreams were the gods trying to comfort human suffering and later thinkers such as Plato hypothesized that dreams were our innate bestial desires being exposed, the cause behind these dreams to this day are still unknown (Siegel 139). Nevertheless, the majority of dreams are reported to occur during a phase of sleep known as rapid eye movement sleep. As can be imagined due to the mysteriousness of dreams, little is known about the function of this state of sleep. While this holds true, we do know that REM sleep is a paradoxical state due to the brain activity that shows great similarity to that of a wakeful state.
Before REM is discussed in greater detail, it will be useful to obtain a background on the function and purpose of sleep as a whole. Sleep, as defined by the Merriam- Webster dictionary, is the natural state of rest during which your eyes are closed and you become unconscious (Sleep). While this definition is true, it is superficial at best as it fails to delve into the amazing processes that occur during sleep or even hint towards the mysteries that are unknown but very characteristic of sleep. According to Jerome Siegel of the Brain Research Institute, “Sleep and rest can be satisfactorily explained as adaptive states whose core function is energy conservation and behavioral regulation” (139). Here Siegel goes more in depth than the dictionary definition and provides insight to the fact that during sleep the body recuperates in ways that include overall homeostasis such as regeneration of depleted biochemical and maintenance of heart rate and blood p.H as well as tissue repair and construction. As you continue to look into what autonomous functions occur throughout sleep it is clear that they are distributed variously into different stages of a cycle that recurs throughout a night of rest. These stages can all be placed into two subcategories known as rapid eye movement (REM) sleep and non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep (Schulz 95). Non-rapid eye movement consists of stages one through four which can each last anywhere from five to fifteen minutes while REM is only one stage in itself but generally lasts anywhere from fifteen to ninety minutes. The first four stages represent a gradual decline in brain activity as well as muscle tone progressing from alpha waves in the awake state then to theta waves in stage one and finally shifting to delta waves in stages three and four (Obringer). An electroencephalogram (EEG) is used to measure the brain activity as the frequency and amplitude of the waves change...

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