We have discussed sleep a number of times in recent years and I feel flattered that our last article was republished. It appears there is a lot more to a good night's sleep including body function and brain activity.
I am sure many of us have gone to bed mulling over challenges, problems and those nagging stressful issues to be resolved. After a night's sleep and in the light of a new day these issues very often shrink or a way through and forward is mysteriously with us. So what has happened in the course of a night's sleep?
For just over half a century scientists have been studying our patterns of sleep and it appears through the night we experience different types of sleep, a really interesting phase is known as REM sleep (rapid eye movement); a phase when we appear to do most of our dreaming; there appears to be a link between quality of sleep, dreams and general good health, both mental and physical.
As we sleep our brains are not shut down or switched off in fact the brain is active through the various phases of sleep (90 minutes of REM sleep then 90 minutes non-REM sleep this pattern continues until we wake) and is very similar to brain activity when we are awake; during phases of REM sleep brain activity peaks but our muscle tone goes to zero, we are functionally paralysed, absolutely relaxed, calm and non-responsive.
There are at least two Nobel prizes credited to dreams and sleep; the solution to the sewing machine development, the hole at the end of the needle is the result of brain activity when asleep. It appears three quarters of dreams are negative; low self-esteem, depressed and anxious people tend to experience different sleep patterns, they tend to have longer periods of REM sleep, they enter this phase sooner than others and for longer than most and experience more negative dreams.
It appears that dreams are probably something we have inherited from more primitive times when predators and the environment in which we lived were far more dangerous. For those of us who have or have had dogs and cats, would have witnessed them dreaming; whimpering, yapping and meowing; obviously acting out their dreams as they sleep.
In summary we search for answers as we dream our brains are very active through the various phases of sleep, unfortunately we don’t remember much about our dreams; in some cultures dreams are very significant. Aboriginal people place much significance to the dream time and some North American tribes spend much time analysing their dreams.
Some additional tips to support a good night’s sleep include; an afternoon banana or two as bananas are a rich source of potassium and magnesium that relaxes the body and muscles. Bananas also contain tryptophan an amino acid the body converts to serotonin (the feel good hormone).